A smart and engaging look into a long-neglected area of American history. The ferocity and determination of the 6888
th are an inspiration.”
"This is not just another WWII story: this is a stirring and timely novel about the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, a group of women who had to fight resolutely against countless obstacles in order to be permitted to serve their country. Grace and Eliza stole my heart with their spirit and their resilience, and the ups and downs of their tumultuous friendship made me laugh and cry. Poignant and powerful; an untold story that you simply must read.”
A beautifully rich story that dives deep into family expectations, sisterhood and self.”
Grace Steele and Eliza Jones are among the first Black women in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, defying their families to enlist and facing even more racism than before when they put on their hard-earned uniforms. Unflinching, at times brutal, this novel pulls no punches while delivering a richly textured and unforgettable story of determination, courage, and friendship.
Based on the true story of the 6888th Postal Battalion, Sisters in Arms gives readers an inside look at the racial injustices and rigors of wartime that the women battled. Alderson sweeps readers in with Grace and Eliza’s personal journeys through a little-known portion of our army’s history. Themes of female friendship, bravery, and resilience radiate from the pages of this magnificent novel.
Kaia Alderson worked her research magic into a wonderful tale of the unsung heroes of the Six Triple Eight. She brought these characters to life . . . . I was amazed by pops of true events entwined within the pages, and degrees of racism these brave women faced journeying through every step of the war. When I finished, I found my heart overfilled with joy by their amazing lives.
Sisters in Arms is the perfect gift to celebrate your friendship with your besties. I have a new appreciation for these ladies, chocolate, coffee, and the mail system.
"Sisters in Arms is a page-turner that cleverly follows two engaging, multi-dimensional, fictional characters who bring to life the real story of a Black, female, U.S. Army battalion during WWII. Grace and Eliza accurately embody the pioneering spirit and sparkling humanity of all the Black women soldiers who triumphed, despite the personal and professional double-binds that came with being among the first women to serve in the military, while also being the first Black women to serve in the then-segregated Army."
Readers will quickly be engrossed by Grace and Eliza’s courage and tenacity as they join the all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps. The story of the trials and victories of the women in the 6888
th is one that deserves to be told, and Alderson does a masterful job of shining a light on these amazing women.
Historical fiction novels featuring female friendships are all too rare. That's why
Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson is such a necessary addition to the genre. Alderson beautifully describes the lead protagonists of Grace and Eliza with care and complexity to showcase the rich diversity that exists in Black womanhood . . . . Grace and Eliza, as well as the life choices they make in the story, lingered with me for a long time once I finished their engrossing story.
"With sparkling prose and inherent empathy, Alderson paints a realistic, compelling portrait of these amazing women who bravely forged a path for those who would come after them."
Kaia Alderson’s stunning historical fiction debut is the book we never knew we needed. A beautifully written love song to the brave, oft forgotten Black women who courageously stepped up to serve their country.”
"Powerfully written with emotional honesty and historical accuracy,
Sisters in Arms explores the obstacles and triumphs of the unsung and only all-Black female battalion during World War II."
Sharina Harris author of Judge's Girls
What an exciting new voice in historical fiction! I couldn’t put down Alderson’s novel of two young Black women testing their mettle and finding friendship and purpose during World War II. With fascinating historical detail and complex characters,
Sisters in Arms casts a brilliant light on a group of women too long kept in the shadows.
Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War II lives up to its bold title. 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!
"A riveting, character-driven tale about the all-Negro Women’s Army Unit of World War II marks Kaia Alderson’s debut historical fiction, a triumph of immersive storytelling about heroic Black women who served their country despite discrimination in an untold story finally getting its due.
“Beautifully written, Kaia Alderson has given us a historical gem that shines a spotlight on the lives of women who served in the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II. In her fictional release, Sisters in Arms, Alderson breathes life into a cast of dynamic characters and masterfully takes us on a journey of service and dedication to country, preservation of self, and strength in times of adversity. Grace and Eliza’s story is a brilliant depiction of resilience and highlights the untold history of black women whose influence has previously been undervalued and ignored.
“Sisters in Arms is a much needed history lesson about the role of Black women in the US armed forces. Their battle wasn't just against the Nazis and enemies of the state. Kaia Alderson’s debut historical fiction novel is a tour-de-force of history, a unique story that has so much relevance to race relations in the 21st century. Alderson is about to be your new favorite author.
“Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson is a poignant story about perseverance in the face of difficulties set against the uncertainty and danger of World War II . . . . From the start, they are set up to fail by their families, the Army and society but they meet every challenge with grit, grace and wit, overcoming personal and professional challenges to prove their mettle. Readers will cheer and cry with these trailblazing women as they break free of their sheltered and restricted lives to overcome individual and societal prejudices and succeed in a world rocked by war.
Sisters in Arms is heartwarming but fierce, a novel brimming with camaraderie and fire, starring women you’d love to make your friends. Prickly, musical Grace and bubbly, privileged Eliza may not make the most natural allies, but it’s fight or die when they’re thrown together in the Army’s first class of female officers—and the first Black women allowed to serve their country in World War II. . . . Kaia Alderson’s debut is a triumph!
“Sisters in Arms is a riveting tale of ordinary Black women doing extraordinary things against all odds in a critical moment in world history. Kaia Alderson does an amazing job bringing these courageous yet unheralded women out of the shadows and into our hearts.
"Eliza and Grace come alive on the pages of this gripping and inspiring novel of friendship, sisterhood, and the bravery of the women of the Six Triple Eight during WWII. Kaia Alderson’s poignant story about the all-Black female battalion who faced discrimination head on in order to serve their country is an incredible debut not to be missed!"
"A thrilling anthem to the courageous sisterhood of the Six Triple Eight as they faced down racism at home and war abroad. SISTERS IN ARMS is a fresh look at the bold women who served America during World War II. A powerful debut!"
Historical fiction novels featuring female friendships are all too rare. That's why
Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson is such a necessary addition to the genre. Alderson beautifully describes the lead protagonists of Grace and Eliza with care and complexity to showcase the rich diversity that exists in Black womanhood . . . . Grace and Eliza, as well as the life choices they make in the story, lingered with me for a long time once I finished their engrossing story.”
DEBUT In Manhattan in July 1942, Grace Steele receives an invitation to join the new Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). As a Black woman, she's finding it nearly impossible to get a teaching job. Her mother's dream for her (to be a concert pianist) likely died with her recent botched Juilliard audition. Grieving the wartime death of her brother Tony is nearly unbearable; facing her mother's grief is impossible. Across town, Harlem journalist Eliza Jones, who was raised in her family's newspaper business, chafes against her father's rules; she's ready to make her own mark on the world. Eliza and Grace couldn't be more different, but their choices bring them together where others root for their failure. They're assigned to WAAC's 6888th Central Postal Division, where their herculean task is delivering mail with incomplete addresses to U.S. soldiers overseas.
VERDICT Based on the true story of the 6888th, Alderson's debut tells of the first women officers in the armed services (also the first Black women to serve, and the only all-Black, female U.S. battalion deployed overseas in World War II). For fans of Hidden Figures and untold stories of heroes and heroines of World War II. —Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA
This historical novel follows two young Black women through their recruitment, enlistment, and service in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, later the Women's Army Corps, during World War II. Grace, a headstrong pianist mourning the recent loss of her brother in battle, and Eliza, a spunky aspiring news reporter with overprotective parents, meet at a WAC recruitment center in New York City in 1942. Despite a few initial disagreements, the two women form a bond that will endure through their service, which takes them from Iowa to the Eastern Seaboard and, eventually, all the way to Europe. With the other Black WAC members, who made up only five percent of women in service during World War II, Grace and Eliza face segregation and prejudice in addition to the universal challenges of wartime. Alderson draws from the available historical information on Black WAC members to paint a full picture of these women's experiences, and includes a robust reference section at the novel's end. Many secondary characters are based on real people. This historical accuracy is, however, somewhat undermined with a generous dose of creative license. A few elements, including the women's romantic interests and an improbable twist ending, feel unnecessary and out of place in the plot. While the novel is aimed at adults, teens will not struggle with its language or themes.
VERDICT This book provides an entertaining, informative look at underrepresented and underreported Black stories from World War II. The importance of its subject matter certainly outweighs some shortcomings in storytelling.— Mary Kamela, Kenmore West High Sch., Buffalo, NY
As the United States heads into World War II, two Black women in Harlem are dissatisfied with their career prospects.
Although she’s a brilliant pianist, Grace Steele freezes at her Juilliard audition and fears to confess her failure to her mother, who’s already distraught about son Tony’s disappearance in the Philippines. Eliza Jones is warring with her employer and father, the editor and publisher of a prominent Black newspaper, because he’s relegated her to covering the society beat. Grace and Eliza meet as new recruits to the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, where each hopes to alter her destiny. But as they enter training, even as relatively privileged officer candidates, they soon learn that racial and sex discrimination have followed them into the armed forces. Although prominent African Americans like Mary McLeod Bethune urge enlistment in the WACs to advance “the race,” the government reneges on its promise to not segregate the WACs. The main arc of the episodic plot is the conflicted friendship between Grace and Eliza. There is a push-pull between them, instant dislike at first, followed by personality clashes—Eliza thinks Grace is rigid and arrogant, Grace resents Eliza’s spoiled, upper-class attitude. Then both, unthinkingly, inflict grievous harm on the other. Eliza blames Grace for failing to warn her about disembarking, alone, at a deserted Kentucky train station, where she is savagely beaten. Later, Eliza will, unintentionally, put Grace in jeopardy in a manner that is equally mystifying and contrived. The language throughout is overly expository and repetitious. But the author fulfills her stated intent to shed light on “hidden figures,” in this case, the trajectory of the WAC in general and the empowerment, however provisional, with which it “armed” its soldiers, who weren’t allowed to bear actual arms.
Calls long overdue attention to the Black women veterans of World War II.