“You don’t need the book. You got the book inside you.” - Sonya

Gifted Hands


(Sonya sits in an office across from a PSYCHIATRIST who, pad in hand, listens with interest.)

SONYA: When Mr. Carson, my husband, married me he gave me my ticket outa there.

PSYCHIATRIST How old were you?

SONYA Thirteen.(seeing his shock) Oh, we were happy – for a while. We had a lovely house, two beautiful boys —

Gifted Hands TV Movie John Pielmeier


SONYA: I don’t like to talk about it.

(Silence. He waits. Finally, she crumbles.)

SONYA: He had another wife and kids. My life fell apart when I found out.

PSYCHIATRIST When was this?

SONYA: Five years ago. I couldn’t leave him – my boys needed their father and I didn’t know how I was gonna make it on my own.

PSYCHIATRIST: Are you still together?

SONYA: I heard he was dealing dope, so the boys and I moved to Boston. I have a sister there. Then his other wife started signing my name to checks and ran through every cent I had. That finished the marriage for sure.

PSYCHIATRIST: Why’d you come back to Detroit?

SONYA: I got the house in the divorce and I kept it. I rent it out for income but I’m saving money in a cookie jar ‘cause some day we’re gonna move back in.

PSYCHIATRIST: How do you support yourself?

SONYA: I clean homes. I baby-sit. I can’t do anything else. Nobody knows this but – (a whisper; this is hard:)- I’m so dumb, I can’t even read.

(And suddenly, she can no longer hold back her deep feelings -)

SONYA: Sometimes I fear my boys are gonna turn out the same way. Nothing’s gonna work out. I fight these feelings – I don’t show ‘em to Curtis and Bennie – but lately – I can’t stop them anymore. I even think about killing myself.

(- as tears come spilling out, running down her cheeks.)

PSYCHIATRIST: (moved by her plight) Mrs. Carson, what would you say to checking yourself in with us? Just for a little while, just til you get on your emotional feet.

SONYA: I can’t afford –

PSYCHIATRIST: (cutting her off) Don’t worry about money, we’ll find the money. Do you have someone to watch your boys?

(A beat; Sonya shakes her head, struggling with this.)

SONYA: I couldn’t leave them, they wouldn’t –

PSYCHIATRIST: They’ll be much better off with a happy mother than with one who’s thinking of suicide. Don’t you agree?

(Sonya’s torn. She tries to say no, but….)

The Story

This is the story of Doctor Ben Carson, whose life takes him from being the “dumbest kid in his fifth-grade class” to becoming the premier pediatric neurosurgeon in the world.

The Backstory

I can’t tell you how honored I was to be able to tell Doctor Carson’s story. I went to Baltimore and spent several days with him and his wife Candy (and Sonya, who was living with them.) The film was shot in Detroit, where Ben actually grew up – which is quite unique since most films made for TV are seldom shot on the actual locations where they took place. On the very first day of shooting we got access to the Detroit Institute of Art and the Detroit Public Library, two of the places where Young Ben actually spent time.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kimberly Elise and the movie itself won Image Awards, the film won a Camie Award, and I was nominated for a Humanitas Award.