Raleigh author’s book makes New York Times Best Seller’s List

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— A Raleigh author is celebrating after his new book made the New York Times Best Seller’s List.

Kwame Mbalia’s novel, “Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky,” highlights a demographic that often lacks representation in children’s literature.

According to Mbalia, the book is based on African folktales. It tells the story of an African-American boy who is sucked into a world where folktales and West African gods are in conflict.

GoAskMom’s Q&A with Kwame Mbalia

“This is one of the [few] times that we’ve seen them on the front cover of a major publisher to be exposed to millions of kids,” said Mbalia, who spends his career trying to put narratives featuring African Americans in the spotlight.

"Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky"

Although this is Mbalia’s first book, several big names took notice while he was still writing. “Tristan Strong” is presented by Rick Riordan, the well-known author of the Percy Jackson series.

“To hear him talk about it and to show support for it online and in person to me…he’s one of my favorite authors,” Mbalia said. “And so to have one of your favorite authors tell you that the book you wrote is good and it made him cry—it’s been incredible. Absolutely incredible.”

Kwame Mbalia, author of "Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky"

When “Tristan Strong” landed in the top ten on the New York Times Best Seller’s List last week, Mbalia couldn’t believe the news.

“I’m also proud that I get to make children, especially children who look like me, smile,” he said. “That’s a really big deal. It’s a huge deal,”

Mbalia hopes his book is a launching pad for a greater platform — giving more kids the option to see themselves in prominent roles.

GoAskMom interviewed Mbalia two weeks before he got the good news. The author, who works as a scientist by day, said he’s currently working on a sequel.

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