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.
A gripping and thrilling novel of the courageous Black women who made history in World War Two.
Inspired by true events, and perfect for fans of Kate Quinn's The Alice Network and Hidden Figures.
'Poignant and powerful; an untold story that you simply must read' NATASHA LESTER
Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion (the Six Triple Eight), Sisters in Arms explores the untold story of what life was like for the only all-Black, female US battalion to be deployed overseas during World War Two.
They were fighting for freedom everywhere. But the first battle they had to win was at home.
Grace Steele and Eliza Jones make history when they join the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Not only are they among the first class of female officers the army has ever seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve.
Everyone is determined to see this experiment fail and learning to navigate their way through the segregated army is tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza may be from completely different backgrounds but they both recognise that to succeed they must be more perfect than everyone else: there is no room for error.
They know that what lies overseas in England and France could cause them great personal cost, but nothing is going to stop these courageous women from playing their parts for the country they love.
Sisters in Arms is richly praised:
'Heartwarming but fierce, a novel brimming with camaraderie and fire, starring women you'd love to make your friends' KATE QUINN
'A beautifully written love song to the brave, oft forgotten Black women who courageously stepped up to serve their country' FARRAH ROCHON
'The story of these brave female soldiers will have you rooting for them with the turn of every page and brimming with pride. A triumph!' KWANA JACKSON
'Well written, good characters that I loved and emotions that were up and down constantly. I didn't want it to end' 5* reader review
'Outstanding . . . well written and easy to read. It threw twists and turns and kept the reader interested until the end' 5* reader review
'I really enjoyed this story and I felt that I learned a lot at the same time' reader review
'A great introduction to a slice of history I wasn't aware of - it's made me want to learn more and that can only be a good thing' reader review
'It's well worth a read and will keep you engrossed right to the end' 5* reader review