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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Historical fiction

Take My Hand

by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Quick take

The moving story of a fiercely protective nurse who will stop at nothing to get justice for the girls in her charge.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unsettling


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_70s


Why I love it

Fiona Davis
Author, The Magnolia Palace

As a tween in the 1970s, my life was small and protected. I listened to Elton John with my best friend, wore saddle-back jeans that happily have never come back into fashion, and stayed out late on summer nights playing kickball with the neighborhood kids.

As you read Perkins-Valdez’s latest, I urge you to consider your own tweenhood. Take My Hand is the story of two young Black girls, Erica and India, who live a hardscrabble life in Alabama in 1973. We see them through the lens of a compassionate, recently graduated nurse named Civil Townsend, whose first job entails working at a family planning clinic. She’s eager to serve her community and aghast when she realizes she’s part of a vast government program to force experimental contraceptives on unsuspecting Black girls as young as eleven. Yet that’s not the worst that’s done in the name of public health.

Inspired by true events, Perkins-Valdez has crafted a riveting combination of family conflict and courtroom drama. But what stands out about this story is the humanity Perkins-Valdez brings to every character, rendering the betrayal of trust even more shocking. The book is a clarion call to remember the atrocities committed in the not-too-recent past, and to protect the childhoods of those to come. Truly unforgettable.

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Montgomery, Alabama 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend has big plans to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her down a dusty country road to a worn down one-room cabin, she’s shocked to learn that her new patients 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 the 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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Take My Hand.

Read a sample →

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