In recognition of Black History Month, Gramercy Books hosts acclaimed author Sheila Williams and features her engrossing historical novel, No Better Time, about a little known aspect of World War II—the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only Black WACs to serve overseas during the conflict. Williams will be in conversation with Demetries Neely, Executive Director and CEO of the King Arts Complex.
Registration for this event is on Eventbrite. The admission fee is waived with the purchase of No Better Time.
KING ARTS COMPLEX is Gramercy’s Community Partner for this program.
In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Dorothy Thom, Spelman graduate, librarian, and Francophile, joins the Women’s Army Corps wanting to do her part for the war effort. Longing for adventure, she has one question for the recruiter: “Do you think I’ll get to go abroad?” As Dorothy and her sister WACs discover, life in the Army is an adventure filled with unexpected deprivations and culture shock. Women from all levels of society, secretaries, teachers, and sharecroppers, work together to navigate a military segregated by race and gender. At boot camp, the “colored girls” are separated for processing. At Ft. Riley, the women’s barracks are rustic and heated by coal-burning pot-bellied stoves while German POWs spend their incarceration in buildings with central heat and hot water.
In early 1945, Dorothy and eight hundred African American WACs cross the turbulent North Atlantic to their post in England. Their orders are to process the mail sent to GIs from their loved ones back home, an estimated 17 million pieces. The women arrive to find mail stockpiled for over two years in warehouses and airplane hangars, many pieces in poor condition, the names illegible.
In England and France, the WACs traverse a landscape of unimagined possibilities. With their outlooks changed forever, they return to the United States as the catalysts for change in America and build lives that transcend anything their ancestors ever dreamed of. No Better Time illuminates a love of country and duty that has been overlooked until now.
Sheila Williams is the author of six books, including Things Past Telling, The Secret Women, and Dancing on the Edge of the Roof, the basis for the Netflix film Juanita. She is the librettist for the opera Fierce, commissioned by The Cincinnati Opera, with music by William Menefield, which premiered in July, 2022. She lives in northern Kentucky.
Raised in Clover, South Carolina, Demetries Neely was keenly aware of racism, and racial segregation as a child, and was determined to fight injustices. She moved to Columbus to attend the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, then worked for more than two decades in corporate law at Nationwide, followed by several years at the private law firm of Buskirk & Associates, LLP. After serving on the board of the King Arts Complex, she was named executive director in 2011.