Sometimes an author gives the amazing gift of a beautiful read that is page-turning and educational. Dolen Perkins-Valdez did exactly that with her 2022 book, Take My Hand.
The Tuskegee syphillis experiments are a horrific, tragic part of US history. It’s still unimaginable to think of what doctors did to Black men in Alabama for 40 years (1932 to 1972). It’s reprehensible.
But that’s not the only story of its kind. As Ms. Perkins-Valdez explores so eloquently in her novel, the involuntary sterilization of Black and poor girls and women was commonplace in the US as recently at the late 20th century. Take My Hand is based on the true case of Mary Alice and Minnie Relf, who were sterilized without their consent by US government workers. In the book, the sisters are Erica and India Williams, and the narrator is Civil Townsend, a 23 year old nurse in Montgomery, Alabama, who champions these children, their father, and their grandmother as she is desperate to right the terrible wrong that took away the girls’ fertility.
What I Liked about Take My Hand
- The writing: Ms. Perkins-Valdez is a talented author who moved between the past and the present with ease and who crafted a story that is not only about tragedy but also about love.
- Civil’s journey: Civil is a motivated young woman who is determined to make a difference as a nurse. She deeply loves the Williams family and must grapple with boundaries while trying to help them.
- The sisters: Erica and India have a deep bond, particularly because India is not verbal, placing more responsibility on Erica. These girls are children facing experiences that adults haven’t witnessed, and their story is beautiful.
- The message: I knew about forced sterilization in US history, but I didn’t know how far it went. This book opened my eyes to so much more, and, unfortunately, it is apropos for what is happening in the US in 2022.
In short, please read this book. It will stay with me for a long time.