A Review: “Sisters in Arms” by Kaia Alderson

This book was my July Book of the Month pick! I chose this book because I’ve never read anything about the black women officers during the WWII era, and I thought this would be an interesting read. This book – although it had its flaws – was an enjoyable read for me. I really enjoyed Alderson’s writing style.

Here’s the overview:

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.

My Verdict: “Sisters in Arms” by Kaia Alderson is Worth Reading

This book was a pleasant surprise! I’m glad I chose it for my BOTM pick for August! However, I have two critiques for the book. Told in both Grace’s and Eliza’s perspectives, I had a hard time really connected with these two characters. Both of their personalities annoyed me. Grace – a musical prodigy with big dreams of getting into Juliard – comes across as a rude know-it-all who hates Eliza from the moment she sees her.

I actually liked Eliza’s character more, but because the book begins with Grace, I thought Grace’s story was the main focus, especially toward the end. Eliza’s family is more well off, running a successful newspaper, and Eliza wants to become a successful journalist. She just has to get out from underneath her father’s controlling grasp. Grace has similar issues with a mother who seems to be living vicariously through her. In an act of defiance and maybe desperation, both women find themselves enlisting to become part of the WAAC. They get off to a rough start mainly because of Grace’s snobby attitude, but they eventually become friends after enduring basic training together. But throughout the book, their friendship has ups and downs, and at times, I felt these two women acted more like childish teenage sisters with how quickly they turned on each other. I think overall though the book is about their friendship.

The second problem I have with the book is that I felt there wasn’t nearly enough of a climax to the story. There was a bit of conflict towards the end of the book, but I wouldn’t consider it a climax as there wasn’t much prior build up. I don’t want to give away anything in case you’d like to read this book. But I do think this book is worth reading to get a glimpse into what it was like for these women during that time period.

Now, let’s get into what I enjoyed about the book! Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Historical figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune appear in the book.
  • Since Grace is an exceptional pianist, classical music and jazz are in the book, which I liked because I took piano lessons until I was 16, and this book reminded me of how much I loved it.
  • There is a bit of romance in the book, which I liked.
  • Racism is touched on in this book. I don’t think it was overdone, and I think the author did a good job balancing the struggles these two characters had to face while also making the story about other issues besides racism.
  • Mental health and PTSD are touched on in this book. These are important topics, and I think it was good of the author to include these issues.

That concludes my review! If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought of it! I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

1 thought on “A Review: “Sisters in Arms” by Kaia Alderson”

  1. Not a topic I’ve ever read about, either, how interesting. I’m glad publishers are picking up on such books and that people are researching and writing them. I have a non-fic book about Black people’s experience of WW2 and I’m going to put that to the top of my next buying list.

    Liked by 1 person

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