Dolen Perkins-Valdez does an incredible job of portraying a haunting story, based on true events, in a way that makes you incapable of putting Take My Hand down. Even if historical fiction isn’t you’re usual go-to genre, everyone should read this novel.
The book is based on a nurse named Civil Townsend, who works at a Family Planning Clinic in Montgomery Alabama, a very fitting name for a woman that fights tirelessly for the voices of those who have faced injustices to be heard.
Civil brings the option of birth control to the women that visit the clinic, thinking she is doing what's right by allowing them to choose their own future, but not everything works out as she planned. After becoming close to two poor, young girls she was just meant to administer birth control to, Civil finds herself growing attached to them and after a huge plot twist, the nurse stops at nothing to seek justice for the girls that had something unimaginable happen to them- forced sterilisation.
This is a heavy read, and one that will stick with you well after you’ve put the book down, but once you start getting into this masterpiece, you will get lost in its tragic story and absorbed by Civil's bravery. Each chapter dives deeper and deeper into how the American health and education system failed to protect these two girls and many other people just like them, including the 400 Black men who were left untreated for syphilis for a study at Tuskagee.
Dolen Perkin-Valdez tells this story in a moving and immersive way that will leave you speechless. Jumping from 1973 to 2016, the author is capable of transporting the reader back in time to experience first hand from the characters, the impact that the lack of reproductive rights had on them, to over 40 years later where they are still living with the consequences of the shameful American health system at the time. As Dolen jumps between these time periods, it is not in any way confusing, as it shows how the characters would progress in decades to come.
This novel is very fitting for the point in history where we are today. The tragic events that unfold take place in 1973, the same year that the Roe v. Wade court case took place, meaning the Constitution of the United States granted the right to have an abortion. In June of this year, Roe v. Wade was overturned, ending the constitutional right to have an abortion, impacting women's reproductive rights, just as shown in this story.
When speaking about why she wrote this powerful novel, Perkin-Valdez revealed, “My hope is that this novel will provide discussions about culpability in a society that still deems poor, Black, and disabled as categories unfit for motherhood. In a world inundated by information about these tragedies and more, I still passionately believe in the power of the novel (and its readers!) to raise the alarm, influence hearts, and impact lives”.
You can purchase this book here.