Take My Hand
by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Published: 2022-04-12T00:0
Hardcover : 368 pages
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“Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze…an unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption.” —Celeste Ng

“Highlights the horrific discrepancies in our healthcare system and illustrates their heartbreaking consequences.” —Essence

Inspired by true ...

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“Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze…an unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption.” —Celeste Ng

“Highlights the horrific discrepancies in our healthcare system and illustrates their heartbreaking consequences.” —Essence

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.

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Discussion Questions

1.   Perkins-Valdez used the real-life 1973 case Relf v. Weinberger as a launching point for writing this novel. Did you know about this moment in history or similar stories? If not, why do you think these important historical moments are not more widely known?

2.   Take My Hand is told through the eyes of present-day Civil revealing to her grown daughter what happened in 1973. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story this way? Why is it important for us to pass on our family histories?

3.   History repeats what we don’t remember. With infamous cases like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the use of Henrietta Lacks’s cells without her knowledge, what do you think is the importance of medical ethics in today’s society?

4.   So many people in this novel have good intentions—even Mrs. Seager believes she is doing what’s right. What are the dangers of good intentions? What responsibility do we have from the fallout of our “good deeds”?

5.   Civil and the nurses at the clinic try to make amends for the unintentional harm they have done to patients over the years. Do you think redemption was possible for them?

6.   Present-day Civil goes to visit her old friend Alicia. In what ways have the two women changed since their days of working together at the clinic?

7.   In the book, Civil recounts, “Our little family managed to live dignified in undignified times. Daddy shined his shoes every morning. Mama wore earrings. These little acts might seem simple to you, but baby, let me tell you. They held back the storm.” What is the significance of living “dignified” for both the Townsend and the Williams families?

8.   How do you think India and Erica’s story would have unfolded if Civil hadn’t stepped into their lives?

9.   Why do you think Civil never married?

10. Do you think Civil was truly attracted to Mace Williams, or do you think it was a product of Civil’s romantic notion of what a hero is?

11.  The ideas of being a savior and being an advocate are important themes in the book. Who in your mind was a savior? Who in your mind was an advocate? What are examples of ways these roles are different?

12. The book is set in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1973. What is the importance of time and place in the novel?

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