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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket


I first had the pleasure of chatting with the magnificent Hayley Diep back in May 2021 when her debut, IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A BIKE was featured on The Backstory. Well, Hayley is back today with the COVER REVEAL of her latest book, a PB bio titled RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY.

For this book, Hayley paired up with illustrator extraordinaire, Naomi Giddings and publisher Triumph Books to create an inspiring and eye-opening book about this lesser-known subject, Waturu Misaka. But this is much more than a sports-centered bio. Keep scrolling to check out the beautiful cover and to learn more about the deeper meaning found in RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY.

AH: Can you tell us a little about the book?

HD: RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY is a picture book biography about the life and journey of Wataru Misaka, the first person of color in the NBA, then known as the BAA. During World War 2, a time when most Americans mistreated and mistrusted Japanese Americans, Wataru Misaka stepped onto the basketball court and played the game he loved.

What a great subject for a PB bio! I know my students are always on the lookout for more sports-themed books. What I love about your book is that you offer this hook, but with it comes so much more. You do such a fantastic job of highlighting Wataru's athletic successes and accomplishments while juxtaposing them against the hardships and lack of belonging he felt in a world that was at war. You demonstrate amazing finesse in pulling this off in an honest, yet child-friendly way that is sure to elicit further wonderings and conversations about equality and racism that families should be having.

AH: What is the backstory? How did this story/idea come to be?

HD: The way this story came to be was quite random, which might be how most story ideas come about. At the time, I was trying to work on my final paper for grad school. My family was watching the NBA playoffs, which might have played a role in me asking the question: “Who was the first non-White NBA player?” I did a quick Google search and was very surprised to learn that it was Wat Misaka. The next few hours, of what was supposed to be grad school work, was spent learning all I could about Wat, and I was amazed by his story.

His story and experience as an Asian American really resonated with me, and I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard about him before! I felt like everyone needed to hear his story and learn about what he had accomplished in spite of all the racism that he endured. That night, I busted out the first draft of what would eventually become this book.

AH: Maybe instead of random, we should say serendipitous. I am so glad that the stars aligned leading you to this idea and what is now RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY. We continue to need diverse books in our homes and libraries and you, Naomi, and the team at Triumph Books have helped fulfill that need.

Hayley, thank you so much for letting me help spread the word about RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY and for giving us all the inside scoop on how it came to be.

RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY by Hayley Diep with illustrations by Naomi Giddings is available for preorder at the links below and is set to release November 14, 2023 from Triumph Books.

Thank you readers for taking the time to learn about RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU “WAT” MISAKA STORY. Please consider giving our two creators a follow on social media to ensure you don't miss a thing about their book or any of their other creative endeavors.





Hayley Diep is a teacher and author in the Bay Area. When she isn't writing or reading, you can find her outside riding her bike, climbing something, or attempting to surf or skateboard.



I’m Naomi Giddings, a freelance illustrator from the Washington, DC area currently living in California. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in Communication Design and minors in Creative Writing and Art History & Archaeology. My first picture book, RISING ABOVE: THE WATARU 'WAT' MISAKA STORY, comes out November 2023!

I'm mixed Japanese American and am interested in creating work that uplifts marginalized people. When I'm not working, you can usually find me reading, cuddling a cat, or waxing poetic about animated films.

Represented by Britt Siess of Britt Siess Creative Management For professional inquiries, contact Britt at

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Jul 06, 2023

Congratulations, Hayley and Naomi! I look forward to reading about "Wat" :)


Jun 28, 2023

Thank you so much for hosting our cover reveal, Andrew! :)


Jun 28, 2023

I love learning about people I never knew about who were the first at something. We can always use more sports stories to get kids excited about reading. Congratulations Hayley and Naomi.

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