Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

 It is both an invitation and a request.

A plea - even.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez compels us to feel. To do so deeply and to not rush past the uncomfortable, the egregious, the injustice.

Take My Hand is a story for right now. 

It is part mother-to-daughter letter, a reckoning with the past we sometimes do when something captures us at a moment in time and we spend decades grappling with the aftereffects.  It is part a glimpse into the post Civil Rights era between Selma and Montgomery, that after the time and becoming time of what we are now dealing with in the simple right to autonomy.

This story hurt me, disturbed me, angered me, and invited me.

I read it in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's leaked writings about abortion and in the horrific days after innocents were slaughtered because of this country's unending, insatiable appetite for violence.

One can not turn away from what this book lays bare.

We are compelled to face it, full on, the effects of decisions, even if one is thinking they are doing "right" that are ultimately so wrong.

Who has the power over our lives?

Who decides what is best for us?

Where does autonomy and responsibility intersect?

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is a expert storyteller, one who doesn't just create characters to be forgotten, but paints us a deeply moving landscape of lives that could be our own.

The story of Erica and India, two minor girls whose lives and possibilities were irrevocably altered by the system that seemed too powerful to be challenged, is mirrored after the real life case that drew Perkins-Valdez into extensive research in a quest for justice, is one of tragedy and triumph, of loss and life, of the power of purpose filled with love. 

I bought this book when it was released and ended up buying two copies, one I told my own daughters, ages eighteen and twenty, that they had to read. 

Like all her other writings, Perkins-Valdez takes a moment in history and sculpts individuals we are drawn to care about, to be invested in their well being, and in the end, to want to do something so that their plight does not have to be repeated.

This is a right now book. 

When does a woman, a girl, have the right to choose what happens to her?Does she lose that right because of age? Poverty? Race? Who speaks for those that systemic injustice silences?

Perhaps, just perhaps, little Black girls can have justice and reproductive choice, that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that is supposed to belong to all of us, - regardless of race and ethnicity, regardless of religion and belief, regardless of education and income - it is supposed to be our birthright.

May it be so.

Tayé Foster Bradshaw lives and writes in Connecticut, enjoying a new coming-of-age as an empty nester sipping coffee and gazing upon the ocean, envisioning possibilities. 

©2022. All Rights Reserved by Antona B. Smith


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