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 11 and 13 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.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez excels at mining the lives of nuanced, yet known, characters to convey the undying toll of slavery ... The author’s expert rendering of this more recent atrocity blankets it in a rich portrayal of family ... Part of the propulsive power of this work is its structure of alternating perspectives ... Perkins-Valdez also shines in her choice and development of characters ... Perhaps the most notable of this book’s gifts are its deft packaging of history and its quiet nod — in the juxtaposition of timelines — to the reproductive oppression haunting Black women to this day. Like the most effective education, though, it feels that the information is streaming through the heart, awakening it and inspiring it to action.
Affecting ... It would be easy to reach for melodrama and to overdo the empathy Civil displays throughout the book. Perkins-Valdez veers instead toward showing how it takes many people, across races...to undo injustices. One of the many triumphs of Take My Hand is that we see both the hard lives of the Williams family and their pride ... Take My Hand is meant to offer not absolution but accountability. It serves as an important reminder that the history of medical mistrust among the marginalized in our country stemmed from egregious acts we’d rather forget. But ignoring the past is not the answer; acknowledging and moving forward differently is the only way through.
In a perfectly orchestrated symphony of specificity, nuance, Jim Crow history and memory, Perkins-Valdez brings the events and images of Montgomery 1973 whizzing back like an unscheduled train rushing past a platform. As always, the author has clearly spent a great deal of time researching to ensure depth and accuracy. Perkins-Valdez paints Montgomery in such rich strokes, you can feel history breathing down your neck ... Not every reader will recognize the careful detail, but those who do will feel rewarded to finally behold a book that centers their experience. And in a novel that is steeped in the stew and issues of womanhood, Perkins-Valdez manages to get even the male characters on point ... In exploring unexplored events involving Black American women, Perkins-Valdez gives us a fuller, richer view of our nation’s history while also reminding readers that Black girls’ bodies and futures have never been protected in the American experiment ... Take My Hand reminds us that truly extraordinary fiction is rarely written merely to entertain ... Perkins-Valdez has done a fine job of building a structure and scaffolding that will not only endure but also bear the weight of future writers yearning to bring the past to readers afresh.