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Review: Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson

Title: Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War II

Author: Kaia Alderson

Year Published: 2021

Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 372
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (NY, OH, IA, KT, GA), UK, France

Summary (from Amazon): Kaia Alderson’s debut historical fiction novel reveals the untold, true story of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, who made the dangerous voyage to Europe to ensure American servicemen received word from their loved ones during World War II.

Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve.

As these courageous women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy—everyone is determined to see this experiment fail. For two northern women, learning to navigate their way through the segregated army may be tougher than boot camp. Grace and Eliza know that there is no room for error; they must be more perfect than everyone else.

When they finally make it overseas, to England and then France, Grace and Eliza will at last be able to do their parts for the country they love, whatever the risk to themselves.

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 U.S. battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II. 

Review: I love that Book of the Month has such a great variety of books each month. When I saw this one at the end of July, I immediately chose it for (one of) my August choices. I, and many of you, have read tons of World War II books, but this one touches on a subject not usually covered: black women in the US military. It reminded me a bit of Fly Girl, a YA novel by Smith, which I really enjoyed many years ago (and apparently didn't review).

I was immediately pulled into this novel, getting to know the women who would enlist in a new aspect of the military during a war. Their parallel stories include how they are treated by their parents, by white people (both good and bad), how they are seen as women (mostly bad, think "weaker sex"), and the friendships they created. I love that the novel is based on real women who were brave enough to enter a whit and male world to serve their country.

I love that the main characters are all college educated black women in the 1940s, showing a group that we don't hear much about (and why is that?! Yeah, I know the answer). They were smart, interesting, brave, and made a difference, standing up to white civilians and officers, and their families to do what they thought was right. You gotta' appreciate that.

Of course, there is a good author note at the end that explains which characters were real people and which events were taken straight from the real group's history. I love that sort of information after reading historical fiction that I enjoy.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Diversity--black characters and author
  • Historical fiction--WWII 
  • Literary Escapes--Kentucky

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