Ask the Author: Kaia Alderson

What would you like readers to know about you?

Hi, my name is Kaia Alderson. I am the author of Sisters In Arms, a historical novel about the African-American women who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War Two. I am a geek for Black Women’s History and the history of popular music. I bleed Girl Scout green and Spelman (College) blue. I love to bake. And I am not above driving several hours out of my way to try out a mom-and-pop ice cream shop.

What is your book about for those who haven’t read it? 

Sisters In Arms tells the story of the African-American women who served in the U.S. Women’s Army Corps during World War Two. It follows two women who “Answer America’s Call” when their lives aren’t going as planned. Both wind up in the first Women’s Army Corps (WAC)’s Officer training class. They eventually become a part of the 6888th Postal Battalion, which, in real life, was the only all-Black WAC battalion deployed overseas during the war. 

What has been your inspiration for writing it? 

This book started with a middle school homework assignment and a picture I saw on Twitter. The assignment was to find out what an older relative’s experience was during World War Two. My auntie told me how she served as a civilian clerk for the Army. She said the only reason she was hired was because her supervisor had “never seen a Colored girl with a college degree before.” That stuck with me over the years. Then I saw a picture of the 6888th marching in a parade in France. It reminded me of my auntie’s story and the book took on a life of its own from there. 

What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write? 

There’s a scene based on a real event where a white woman calls the military police on Grace and Eliza for “impersonating WAC officers” because there was no way “a Colored gal could ever be an officer.” It echoes the events we’ve been seeing in the news for the past few years where white women have called the police on Black people for the most ridiculous reasons. 

What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara 

Topaz by Beverly Jenkins 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book? 

Do not give up. I don’t know how many times I walked away from the manuscript that became Sisters In Arms because I was convinced that nobody would ever want to read this “stuff.” And then one day, my now editor posted on Twitter that she wanted someone to send her a book about the 6888th Postal Battalion and I was able to reply that I already had it half-written. 

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