A review of the book “Take My Hand” examines racial, class issues Lifestyle

Some things, well, you just make them your own.

You know it happens when you just can’t let go of something. You spin it in your mind in six ways every day and talk about it until everyone around you gets tired of hearing about it. Pretty soon it’s your problem, but be careful: as in Dolena Perkins-Valdez’s new novel Take My Hand, such things change lives.

If you had asked her, Sibyl Townsend would not have been able to tell you exactly why she was on a trip alone, heading from Memphis to Birmingham. Probably because she heard that India has cancer. Maybe it was the fault.

She wondered if India would remember her. It had been more than forty years since Civil had last seen her. India was then a girl.

It was 1973, the year of women’s rights and political upheavals, and she had just graduated from school, a new nurse on her first job at a family planning clinic in Birmingham. The clinic was funded by the government, and most of its clients were poor, and that was hard: Sibyl grew up with the privileges enjoyed by a few Black Alabama residents and made her fear people who looked like her but were not at all like her.

Wasn’t it ironic that the first folder she got on her first day of work was for Erica and India Williams, two girls who lived in poverty, dirty and illiterate? Wasn’t it ironic that Civic was told to give these little girls contraceptive injections that can get sick if she herself carries a birth-related secret?

The reluctance to do her job led to a riot that forced her to try to change the lives of the girls, their parents and grandmothers. The civilians joined in and got them new housing, new clothes and a new life. But in the end it did not help, but worsened.

Will her own daughter ever understand?

Based on a real historical case, “Take My Hand” seems ready for the outrage that is barely coming, perhaps because the cause of the railing is obscured by the main character, who is fussing over herself and her own decisions. In fact, author Dolen Perkins-Valdes at first does not make her Sibyl very likable; even Civic admits it’s “obscene” and it never goes away.

As for the plot, it is slow – except when it is not, and then, reading, it seems that viewing it as if you caught only the highlights of it all. Sometimes it’s hard to get through this inequality, but you have to: that’s the benefit of this novel.

What is part of the answer to the question: should I read this book?

Yes, perhaps if you are unfamiliar with Relph vs. Weinberger, as this story may act as a softer and milder way to learn about it. Just beware of its bumps, try “Take My Hand” and make it your own.

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