Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Title: Take My Hand

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Publisher: Berkley

Published: April 12, 2022

ASIN: B0998ZCQTK

Pages: 367

I have little time to read for leisure, so it excited me to squeeze in this gem.

Civil Townsend was a nurse at the Family Planning Clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1973. Erica (thirteen) and India (eleven) were assigned to her case. As their nurse, Civil is to administer the Depo-Provera birth control shots.

This shocks Civil as the girls are still very young, have never been sexually active, and little India is not only mute but has yet to start her cycle. 

The Williams sisters are being raised by their father and grandmother, both illiterate, their mom having passed on. Their living conditions in rural Alabama are not fit for any human to live.

Take My Hand is a powerful historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Eugenics Movement that led to the involuntary sterilization of Black women in the twentieth century. This sterilization continued in many states until as late as the 1970s.

Eugenics, from the Greek word eugenes, was a term coined by Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin. It was a racist scientific idea that only those “well-born” or with “good” genes should be allowed to reproduce. This was a fancy way of controlling the Black population, which meant that at the center of eugenicists’ agenda were Black women.

“We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children.” 

Barbara Harris, Founder of Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK),
C. 1990

Although Erica and India are fictional characters, they represent the many actual women who experienced this form of lynching. In August 1964, the North Carolina Eugenics Board met to decide if a 20-year-old Black woman should be sterilized. 

She was a single mother with one child who lived at the segregated O’Berry Center for African American adults with intellectual disabilities in Goldsboro. According to the North Carolina Eugenics Board, the woman (whose name was redacted from the records) was said to exhibit “aggressive behavior and sexual promiscuity.” She had been orphaned as a child and had a limited education. The board determined she was not capable of rehabilitation.

Take My Hand also mentions The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932-1972) and the Roe vs. Wade decision (‘73). You can tell by how Valdez brings it out that she fully intends to educate her readers on these events. As the characters are learning, so are we. 

The story opens in 2016 and is told from the perspective of an elderly Civil traveling back to Alabama to visit an adult but sick India. The story goes back and forth between 1973 and 2016.

This is a book about racism, sexism, classism, poverty, and white privilege.

But it is also a story of strength.

Although heartbreaking, I find the book well-written and historically accurate.

Ratings

Plot Movement / Strength: 5/5

Entertainment Factor: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

Authenticity / Believable: 5/5

Thought Provoking: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

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Yecheilyah

Yecheilyah Ysrayl is an author, book blogger and poet of black historical fiction and poetry. She also writes inspirational nonfiction and urban fantasy. "I write to restore black historical truth for the freedom of all people." Visit her online at yecheilyahysrayl.com.

6 thoughts on “Yecheilyah’s Book Reviews: Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez”

  1. I got this book as part of my subscription and had no idea the lengths that went into keeping the “less fortunate” or “lower classed people” from having children.
    I got through half way in this novel and I was heartbroken. I couldn’t complete it. I was highly disappointed and disturbed. Not by the writing because that is phenomenal but the overall story.
    And you mentioned the story about a young woman at OBerry, that is my town I’m in and I didn’t know it was that close to me. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand that. The book definitely has some triggers. And yes, there are many heartbreaking scenes. Though, personally, I wasn’t all that surprised and find the book, when read in ts entirety, to be a pretty good Black history lesson especially for the younger generation who lacks the the patience to do in-depth research.

      As a Histfic author myself, I also found the way the author weaved history into the fictional narrative to be spot on.

      Like

  2. These stories always make me feel some kind of way – heartbroken over what our ancestors endured simply because of skin color. But at the same time, the historical truth in the fiction leads me to wanting to know more. Thanks for a thorough review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad I came across your blog today and had a chance to read your review of this book. Sounds like a winner, even if the story itself is gut-wrenching. I’m always on the lookout for new examples of injustice that I might incorporate into my teaching someday. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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