Winner of the 2023 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Fiction
“Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze…an unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption.”—Celeste Ng
Inspired by true events that rocked the nation, a searing and compassionate new novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible injustice done to her patients, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench
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 eleven and thirteen 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.
Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.
Because history repeats what we don’t remember.
Inspired by true events and brimming with hope, Take My Hand is a stirring exploration of accountability and redemption.
“Highlights the horrific discrepancies in our healthcare system and illustrates their heartbreaking consequences.”—Essence
Perkins-Valdez (Balm) captivates with a scintillating story about Black women's involuntary sterilizations in 1970s Montgomery, Ala. Civil Townshend lands her first nursing job after graduating from Tuskegee University at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, where she is instructed to administer the experimental Depo-Provera birth control shot to homebound sisters India and Erica Williams, ages 11 and 13, who live with their sharecropper father in a ramshackle, one-room house. Civil has reservations about giving the shots to her young patients, and her white supervisor later blindsides Civil by ordering the girls to be sterilized after their illiterate father approves the procedure. Civil is mortified and, with the aid of her best friend Tyrell Ralsey, whose parents are lawyers, sets in motion a lawsuit against the clinic. A young, white civil rights lawyer shoulders the case, and the suit expands to include the federal government. Meanwhile, the author movingly explores Civil's passion for reproductive rights, shaped in part by her decision to abort a pregnancy with Tyrell. The medical field's unjust and exploitive treatment of Black people has been covered in the landmark nonfiction titles such as Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and Perkins-Valdez skillfully adds to the literature with a nuanced story personalized by Civil's desire for redemption over her role in the sterilizations. This will move readers.