Campus Life

New York Times best-selling author speaks at Stockon

Written for The Argo by Victoria Orlowski

To close out the Stephen Dunn Reading Series for the 2022-2023 academic year, Stockton’s Literature Program, in conjunction with the Murphy Writing Center, invited New York Times best-selling author Dolen Perkins-Valdez to read and discuss her new book Take My Hand

Take My Hand explores the historical treatment of Black women in a more current setting. Based on a true story, it derives its origins from a case in the 1970s where two young Black girls, the Williams sisters, were forcibly sterilized. It tells the story of two lower-class Black girls who are mistreated by the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, told from the perspective of a Black nurse who enters the scene, unaware of how the girls have been taken advantage of. 

When Perkins-Valdez had first learned about the case, she wondered why it had not been previously taught to her. “This is something that has been willfully and intentionally swept under the rug of history, and I have got to write about it,” she said.

Perkins-Valdez then explained her research process and how she was able to meet the lawyer and social worker that had taken on the Williams girls’ case, even describing how she took the suspicious social worker to Red Lobster before being able to ask them about all they remembered from the case. She explained how she wondered about the other Black nurses that worked at the clinic that allowed this to happen. She was unable to find any of them, but it did not stop her from wondering, “How did you live with yourself knowing this had happened under your watch?”

Perkins-Valdez then read a short passage where her main character—a nurse named Civil— meets the two girls for the first time. After the reading, she opened up discussion and questions from the audience where she revealed that she met the Williams sisters and their family. She described both of them as sweet and talked a bit about where they are now. Some of her other published titles are Wench and Balm, which explores the historical treatment of Black women during the Civil War.

Her books can be found either on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.