Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Take My Hand is a gem of a read! It reminds us just how important it is for these stories to be told, for them to be heard, to be acknowledged and remembered and to care; that feels crucial right now. This is why I read the books I do!!

“In order to heal, we must remember, once we remember we must acknowledge, and once we acknowledge we can take more significant action.”

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

What are some of the themes explore? Did the stories have me think deeply, challenge my thoughts, and see something different? Or learn anything new?

YES!!! It is a moving, meaningful, less-known story that explores reproductive rights and justice for black people. The story is inspired by real-life 12 and 14 years old sisters Mary Alice and Minnie Lee Relf. A federally funded family planning clinic involuntarily sterilized them in Montgomery, Alabama 1973. While this case has been well publicized, it is not well known or been written about. 

Other themes of responsibility, redemption and unintentionally wounds are explored through Civil.  Civil is a young privileged black woman out of nursing school and working at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic. She is assigned to give birth control shots to two black Alabama sisters, 13-year-old Erica and 11-year-old India. She starts to question why the birth control shots are given to the girls and discovers they are potentially harmful.

Sense of place and time

Dolen Perkins-Valdez captures an affecting sense of place and time with the Roe v. Wade decision a few months earlier, women had the right to abortion, and the U.S. government’s Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the black males. She brings a part of the past to light. With Roe v Wade set to be overturned and reproductive rights in parts of the U.S. are being threatened and oppressed, it’s timely and relevant.

I am Canadian, and abortions are regulated similar to other healthcare procedures across Canadian provinces. Through the Canada Health Act, Canadians have a right to access sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion.

The characters:Are the characters easy to connect and relate to? Was I able to step into their shoes?

While Perkins-Valdez uses the savior trope, she writes with compassion and creates realistic characters that are easy to relate to and connect with. She creates an extraordinary, affecting character with Civil, who becomes consumed with helping the Williamses family. She becomes aware that she has unintentionally wounded the family and battles her demons for her part in the girls’ involutnating sterilization. It’s easy to step into the characters’ shoes and feel with them.

“Sometimes love can kill you, just like hate. You love too hard, and you can lose yourself in other folks’ sorrow. You hate too hard, and you know the rest of that story.” ~ Civil

“had never known that good intentions could be just as destructive as bad ones.” ~ Civil

What were some of the emotions I experienced while reading this one?

I had an array of emotions; the best thing about that was I felt them along with Civil. I felt confused and disbelief about what was happening to Erica and India and then angry that it did happen. I had all kinds of questions I needed answers to. I was rooting for Civil to find some peace with her part of what happened. I felt for the Williams family and felt their pain, and rooted for their fight. I felt sad to see how poor, uneducated black families are in the system, a system that should be there to protect them, not cause harm. I was inspired by Civil’s kindness, her willingness to help the Williams, and her decision to stand up and give a voice to the family.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

I highly recommend reading it

Published in April 2022 and read in June 2022

Genre: Historical fiction/Literary Fiction

Setting: Montgomery, Alabama 1973

I received a copy from the publisher