cover image Take My Hand

Take My Hand

Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Berkley, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-33769-1

Perkins-Valdez (Balm) captivates with a scintillating story about Black women’s involuntary sterilizations in 1970s Montgomery, Ala. Civil Townsend 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. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Susanna Lea Assoc. (Apr.)