‘Take My Hand’

A horrifying, heartbreaking, and empowering story of Black and poor childbearing women based on real historical events.

By Stefanie Davis

“Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a work of fiction based on real historical events. Set in a post-segregation Alabama, this story tells of the real atrocities against primarily Black and poor girls and women. Civil Townsend has just finished nursing school when she lands a job at a family planning clinic. She is assigned to do home visits with sisters Erica and India who live in a poverty-stricken area. She becomes concerned when she finds out the sisters haven’t reached puberty and have never been sexually active, yet are being prescribed birth control. Civil begins to dig deeper into medical abuses that she’s made aware of involving the clinic and is determined to fight for what she believes is right. However, the story takes a dark turn when Civil learns that her boss has ordered the sterilization of the two young girls. Her boss took advantage of the girls’ illiterate father to get consent for the procedure. Civil begins the fight for justice for those who have been subjected to these medical abuses and injustices. The story then flashes forward to when Civil has become a doctor and has her own child, for whom she must explain the story. This a great own-voices read that gives the reader a true history lesson that is horrifying, heartbreaking, and empowering. The characters are relatable, and Perkins-Valdez has written the story in such a way that makes it come alive for the reader. If interested in similar reads, try “The House of Eve” by Sadeqa Johnson or “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.



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