Men of the 65th: An Interview with Author Talia Aikens-Nuñez

Honor and Fidelity. That is the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army. Discover their story in the new YA nonfiction Men of the 65th: The Borinqueneers of the Korean War.

Today author Talia Aikens-Nuñez joins us on the Lerner blog to share her inspiration, a surprising research discovery, and her hopes for the young adults learning about the Borinqueneers for the first time. Read on to download the free discussion guide!

Front cover of the Men of the 65th. Soldiers crouching low over a hill with their weapons.

What was the inspiration for the book?

About ten years ago during a family holiday with my partner’s family, my husband’s grandfather showed me a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal that he received as a member of the Borinqueneers (65th Infantry Regiment’s battle name). After he told me the story of the Borinqueneers, I searched for books to read for myself and for my kids. Unfortunately, I could not find many. That is why I wrote Men of the 65th

What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching for the book?

Dozens of men from the 65th were put in jail by the military for disobeying orders and leaving a hill they were ordered to capture. But, just a little while after they were court martialed, other white military men did the same thing on the same hill. But they were not arrested. 

How long did it take you to write this book?

From the time I learned about the Borinqueneers and started researching in 2013 until my fabulous editors Shaina and Cole helped me fine-tune the storyline, it has been just under ten years. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have seven published books: OMG series (three books), Escucha Means Listen, Small Nap, Colors of the Sun and Moon, and Men of the 65th. Men of the 65th is my first nonfiction book. The journey of researching and listening to veterans’ stories has been so rewarding. It has such a special place in my heart. 

What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

American history is complex. There are many untold stories of American heroism. However, many of these stories are not presented to us and youth in US History class. 

What are you reading now?

I recently finished Daughter of the Moon Goddess which was fantastic! It was such a fast read. Great story. I’m excited to read the second book in that series this fall. For nonfiction, several months ago I read Fallout by Steve Sheinkin. I always love his books.

Spread from Chapter 5 of the Men of the 65th depicting a map of the coast of North Korea and the Sea of Japan.

Praise for Men of the 65th

“An excellent choice for those interested in military or Puerto Rican history; a great pick for U.S. history courses or research.”—starred, School Library Journal

“[E]xtensive background information, numerous sidebars, maps, and archival photos help make the action historically and politically accessible. . . . A fitting tribute to the Borinqueneers . . .”—Booklist

“[T]old in a riveting narrative style enhanced by maps, historical photographs, and eyewitness quotes. . . . Powerful stories from the battlefield illuminate courage and struggles for recognition.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An important read about an often forgotten piece of U.S. military history that celebrates its subject by forefronting their bravery in overcoming obstacles both foreign and domestic.”—Publishers Weekly

Free Educator Resources

Download the free discussion guide with comprehension questions for each chapter!

Watch the official book trailer

Connect with Talia

Talia Aikens-Nuñez is passionate about sharing with young readers the little known stories, accomplishments, and contributions of people of color from all throughout history. Aikens-Nuñez is the author of Small Nap, Little Dream, a bilingual Spanish/English picture book. She and her husband live on a river in Connecticut with their two children.

Get the inside scoop from more authors and illustrators on the Lerner blog!

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