BookBrowse Reviews Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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Take My Hand

by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez X
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
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    Apr 2022, 368 pages

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A moving novel based on a 1973 lawsuit filed on behalf of two young Black girls who were sterilized as part of a federally funded family planning program.

First Impressions readers were moved by Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Take My Hand, a novel that illuminates the dark chapter of eugenics in American history. The book received an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

What it's about:

Take my Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a tour de force of a novel. Inspired by true events, the story follows Civil Townsend, a woman fresh out of nursing school and working at a reproductive health clinic in Montgomery, Alabama. Civil quickly discovers that impoverished Black women are being sterilized without their consent. When to two young sisters are sterilized, Civil jumps into action and a lawsuit follows. As she becomes more entwined with the sisters and their family, we also learn more about Civil's family. Each character in this novel is so well developed that you feel as if you know them. Watching Civil try to effect change in the sisters' lives is uplifting and painful. A second timeline features the protagonist as a woman on the verge of retirement from a successful career as a doctor (Mary S).

Some readers were surprised to discover that the real-life events of this story happened in the recent past:

Take My Hand is a deeply touching book. I would have liked to think this forced sterilization of poor Black women happened much longer ago than it actually did (Shirley H). I enjoyed this book because the subject was a revelation for me. It read like a crime novel exposing the extent and enormity of the practice of racial sterilization. This book is intended to bring these past atrocities to light and broadcast awareness to those who can voice dissent (Bonne O). Take My Hand is a profound, enlightening and heartbreaking book. I will never be the same after reading it. I was a young adult back then and for the life of me I can't remember this happening or the trial that took place. We can't forget these things. This broke the summer after we learned of the Tuskegee experiments. How could this happen in our great nation? This is a book I will never forget (Phyllis P).

And many drew parallels to present-day events related to reproductive freedoms and racism:

This book, while historical fiction, tackles topics still very relevant to our time. It is a "must-read" for book clubs willing to have meaningful, and possibly tough, discussions — not only about the book, but about the topics of civil rights, structural racism and women's reproductive rights (Gay J). The tragedy of our nation's shameful medical abuse of people of color, especially women, is laid bare here. It begs the reader to understand the mistrust in our society's public health initiatives some people of color have after being betrayed so many times in the past and remaining underserved in many ways today (Jo S).

Readers appreciated the excellent characterization in the novel:

This expertly written historical novel will appeal to readers interested in civil rights and strong intelligent female characters (Jennifer W). The writing is so strong, the characters are well-developed and you get caught up in their emotions; the story is compelling and repelling; messy in a way that life is (Dominique G). The unfolding story is powerful, the characters are brave and unforgettable, and what happened is a story that must be told. Thank you, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, for opening my and other readers' eyes to this unconscionable tragedy (Diane S).

And recommend Take My Hand as an ideal choice for book clubs:

This is an emotional compelling and heartwrenching story. I found that the author's superbly drawn characters evoked my emotions, and the seamless integration of the meticulously researched historical details provided the outrage that is needed to make sure this does not happen again. This is a great book club discussion book for those who like to discuss weighty and timely issues. A much-needed book to understand the legacy of injustice! (Beverly J). Book clubs will love this book as it really invites deep thought and discussions about medical ethics and institutional racism. Anyone who enjoys truthful historical fiction will like this hard-hitting and well-written book for the warm characters and the unapologetic descriptions of past US medical abuses (Jo S).

This review first ran in the April 20, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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