Bestselling author Dolen Perkins-Valdez will sign and read excerpts from her new book “Take My Hand” at 6:00 pm on Mon. Apr. 26 at Langston, 104 – 17th Ave. S. in Seattle. Perkins-Valdez, who used to teach at the University of Puget Sound, is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Balm and Wench, for which she earned a First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library in 2011 and national acclaim.
Some moments in history resonate loudly. For New York Times bestselling author Dolen Perkins-Valdez, one such moment is the story of Minnie Lee and Mary Alice Relf, who were twelve and fourteen years old when they became victims of medical racism in 1970s Alabama. Poor and Black, the sisters were surgically sterilized without their knowledge, along with approximately 150,000 young women like them. Perkins-Valdez shines light on this terrible story in her newest novel, Take My Hand, is a fictionalized look at the families’ suffering and the courageous women and men fiercely determined to expose the truth.
Take My Hand is a stirring, gut-wrenching novel that explores the harrowing yet timely themes of anti-Black racism in the medical field, poverty in the American South, and sexism against young Black girls, and has proclaimed by many to be Perkins- Valdez’s most astonishing work yet.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Civil Townsend has just finished nursing school, and all she wants is to make a lasting difference in her community. Employed at the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help Black women make healthy choices about their bodies.
Her first home case takes her down a desolate road to a worn-down, one-room cabin deep in the country. There, she meets India and Erica Williams, sisters only eleven and thirteen years old, who are to receive regular birth control shots. Neither girl has ever kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and that is enough reason for those handling their welfare benefits to ensure they don’t get pregnant. As Civil continues visiting the Williams family, she begins to question her role of her and take the sisters into her heart of her. Then, one day she arrives to find that both girls have been sterilized without their knowledge of her, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. In that moment, Civil must decide if she will continue in silent complicity or speak up. Her decision of her will change all their lives forever.
Inspired by the real 1973 Relf v. Weinberger case of Montgomery, Alabama, Take My Hand excavates the chilling history of anti-Black racism in the American healthcare system and sheds light on the many women who suffered at its hands. The book is an important and sobering reminder of a long history of racial inequality in healthcare and its lasting implications on our current historical moment. It is also a riveting tale about justice, morality, the difference between being an advocate and a savior, and the power of standing up for what is right.
Perkins-Valdez skillfully weaves together events from the past to today, placing uncomfortable truths in front of us so that we may finally face them and move forward together. In the words of Terry McMillan: “Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a brilliant writer in a class all by herself. I love her voice and how she makes the past feel immediate and relevant, because it is.
For more information on the event, which is co-hosted by Elliott Bay Books and the Langston, please visit https://www.elliottbaybook.com/event/dolen-perkins-valdez-0