Take My Hand – by Dolen Perkins-Valdez – independent book review – Historical Fiction (United States)

I’m not sure why it still shocks me each time I come across another blatant episode in our country’s shameful racist history, particularly when it is a story I’ve never heard about. Similar to the infamous Tuskegee Experiment that involved Black men suffering from syphilis, TAKE MY HAND is inspired by the tragic but true story of another government financed program that abused a disproportionate number of young Black women. And these events take place as recently as the 1970s. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Civil Townsend, the idealistic daughter of a successful Black physician in Montgomery, AL has just completed her nursing degree. Her first job is at a one of the city’s family planning clinics, where she is committed to doing whatever she can to help others. Unfortunately, sometimes determining what is “right” can be hard to pinpoint. And even well-meaning healthcare providers, both Black and White, can too often find themselves crossing a line and losing sight of the Big Picture.

As so much historical fiction does these days, Dolen Perkins-Valdez employs two distinct time-frames to tell Civil’s story. Most of the book takes place in the 1970s, just after the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision has been handed down and as the Watergate scandal is unfolding. A second timeline tells Civil’s story 40+ years later as she, like many older people, tries to reconcile her life — both its successes and failures.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Photo from her Website

The novel is a true page-turner, powerfully combining both characters you will care deeply about and important questions to ponder:
• Just how long will it take to identify and eliminate all the insidious ways institutional racism continues today in the United States?
• Are some people trying to help those less fortunate actually trying to meet their OWN needs instead? And if so, is that a problem?
• How do healthcare providers maintain the appropriate level of distance from those they care for?
• Can people trying to do good go too far?
• How do we ensure equal justice for ALL?

Highly recommended, though not easy to read.

More about New York Times bestselling author and Associate Professor in the Literature Department at American University, Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

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