The powerful new novels “Bitter” by Akwaeke Emezi and “Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez are distinct novels in their narratives, yet share a common thread of addressing the impact of societal injustices and the individuals who rise and move through seemingly insurmountable challenges to confront them. Stories that reflect the resilience of Black characters as a reflection of the strength of our incredible communities are portals of truth that will never grow old—yet continue to be unwavering in their strength to inspire.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez, renowned for her evocative storytelling, shares her literary prowess for historical fiction with “Take My Hand.” Inspired by true events, this searing and compassionate novel is a poignant exploration of injustice, accountability, and redemption set against the backdrop of post-segregation Alabama in 1973. The story revolves around Civil Townsend, a young Black nurse fresh out of nursing school, who is determined to make a difference in her community. She joins the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic with the noble intention of helping women shape their destinies and make choices for their lives and bodies. Little does she know that her first week on the job will lead her to a life-altering encounter with the Williams sisters, Erica and India, 11 and 13 years old. The shocking revelation that the girls are being forced on to birth control due to their poverty and race sets the stage for a harrowing tale of injustice and the resilience of the human spirit.
National Book Award finalist, Akwaeke Emezi, returns with “Bitter,” a powerful companion novel to their acclaimed work, “Pet.” In this deep exploration of youth, social revolution, and art, Emezi transports readers to the town of Lucille, a place mired in darkness and injustice, where the young generation is determined to challenge the status quo. The portrayal of Lucille before the revolution is a stark and vivid depiction of a world where a few ruling elites control the destinies of the many. The setting serves as a stark contrast to the burgeoning spirit of rebellion among the young people of Lucille. Emezi eloquently portrays the frustration and determination of a generation that refuses to accept the oppressive norms imposed upon them.