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Behind the Book: SISTERS IN ARMS

SISTERS IN ARMS is a gripping and thrilling novel detailing the courageous Black women who made history in World War Two. We spoke to Kaia Alderson, author of SISTERS IN ARMS, all about her new book.

Behind the Book


This book started more than thirty years ago as a middle school social studies assignment. I was tasked with interviewing an older relative about her experiences during World War II.

I called Aunt Carmen, my grandmother’s cousin. She told me that she worked as a civilian Army clerk in Manhattan during the war. A shocked fourteen-year-old me asked, “They let Black women work in the military back then?”

“Ha!” She laughed into the phone. “The only reason my supervisor hired me was because he had ‘never seen a Colored girl with a college degree before.’”

That “Colored girl with a college degree” line came back to me the first time I saw a World War II–era picture of Black female soldiers. They were turning the corner of a French cobblestone street. I knew Black women had served back then, but the location in the background was a surprise. I didn’t know any had served overseas. Thanks to Google, the

story of the 6888th Postal Battalion – the Six Triple Eight – became a part of my life.

Because the true stories of the African American female military experience during World War II aren’t commonly known, I tried to stay true to the facts while writing Sisters in Arms. Grace and Eliza are fictional characters, but many of their experiences are based on true events, including the encounter with the Nosy Nellie on the train who thought they were imposters and, unfortunately, Eliza’s train station assault.

Many of the named secondary characters were real people, including my heroine Major Charity Adams. She really did tell that general, “Over my dead body, sir.” It is my favorite moment in the Six Triple Eight’s story.

PFC Mary Bankston, PFC Mary Barlow, and SGT Dolores Browne are three of the four women buried in the American cemetery in Normandy, France. I found very few details about the circumstances of their fatal jeep accident. I hope that I have honoured their memories and their families with my fictionalized account of that tragic event.

The Jonathan Philips character was inspired by Truman Gibson Jr., who served as a civilian aide to War Secretary Stimson during World War II. Gibson led a fascinating life that included a stint as a boxing promoter, as well as representing Lorraine Hansberry’s father in Hansberry v. Lee, the landmark Chicago civil rights racial housing case on which the play A Raisin in the Sun is based.

Dr. Noah Roberts is a fictional character based loosely on the Six Triple Eight’s medical officer, Captain Thomas M. Campbell. Captain Campbell was the brother of Captain Abbie Noel Campbell, the Six Triple Eight’s executive officer, and of decorated Tuskegee Airman Colonel William A. Campbell.


Meet The Author: Kaia Alderson

Kaia Alderson is a historical women’s fiction author with a passion for discovering ‘hidden figures’ in African-American women’s history. Kaia holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in sociology from Spelman College and Master’s of Education degree in media/ instructional technology from the University of West Georgia. She is an alumna of the creative writing workshops presented by Callaloo Journal, Voices of Our Nation (VONA), Hurston/Wright Foundation, Kweli Journal, and The Second City. To find out more, visit http://www.kaiawrites.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kaiawrites. Discover More