Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 30 minutes
First Published: 2022
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Take My Hand is inspired by the true story of government overreach in the forced sterilization of poor Black girls. In 1973, Civil Townsend is excited to use her new nursing degree to make a difference in the lives of her African-American community in Montgomery, Alabama. However, Civil is shocked to find her first patients are two young Black girls (ages 11 and 13) on birth control and begins to question the ethics of her work.
Instead of being based on a true story, Take My Hand is inspired by one, giving Perkins-Valdez free reign to dive into the psyche of how the nurses would have felt in this horrible situation. Although forced sterilization is a depressing topic, Take My Hand is not a depressing book. Powerfully personalizing the entire scenario, the story focuses on Civil’s struggle: her feelings of culpability, her desire to help the family.
I was most impressed with how Perkins-Valdez showed the friction between Civil and the family, their gratitude at her for helping and caring, but also the common tendency to overreach when charity begins to feel like a Savior complex. Take My Hand is a thought-provoking historical novel that informs you while keeping you gripped by an emotional story and would be an excellent choice to read this Spring.
A searing and compassionate new novel about a young Black nurse’s shocking discovery and burning quest for justice in post-segregation Alabama.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.
But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.
Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.
Because history repeats what we don’t remember.