Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Published: 2022 Penguin HachetteUK Genre: Historical Fiction. Based on a true story.

Civil Townsend lives in Montgomery, Alabama in 1973. In her job as a nurse at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she visits the home of two young girls, Erica (13) and India (11), who are living in very poor conditions with their father and grandfather. Civil is tasked with administering birth control injections, but she becomes angry that they are being given a drug that doesn’t have government approval. Things get worse when she finds out that the girls have been taken to hospital and surgically sterilized. A court case ensues, and Civil tries to get justice for all poor Black American women.

I had a hand in breaking all of this. I had to have a hand in fixing it.

Because this is based on real historical events, the reader should feel outraged, but the dispassionate storytelling in this book doesn’t fire me up. However, it did cause me to find out more, and yes, it does “highlight the deep and lasting impact of injustice.” (Kirkus).

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez


The first thing that hit me was the odor. Urine. Body funk. Dog. All mixed with the stench of something salty stewing in a pot. A one-room house encased in rotted boards. A single window with a piece of sheet hanging over it. It was dark except for the sun streaming through the screen door and peeking through the holes in the walls.

Our research reveals that over the past few years, nearly one hundred fifty thousand low-income women from all over the nation have been sterilized under federally funded programs.

Image source: Hand reaching out. Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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