Talkin’ Bull City With 11-Year-Old Author Ari Martinez Palmieri

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A young author charms the community with his guide to Durham

By Anna-Rhesa Versola | Photo by John Michael Simpson

Inspiration struck 11-year-old Ari Martinez Palmieri two years ago as he coped with pandemic malaise. “I was really bored, so I started writing my book,” he says. “I thought of things I really love forever, and my hometown is on that list.”

Ari, now a sixth grader at Triangle Day School, wrote “Bull City: A Kid’s Guide to Durham,” a 46-page paperback in which Ari describes some of his favorite points of interest, restaurants, parks and trails. In the back, Ari drew two different reference maps – one of the city proper and one of the downtown district. Among his top recommendations are watching a Durham Bulls baseball game, enjoying a meal at Alpaca Chicken and exploring the Eno River. “It was pretty fun writing,” Ari says. Ari credits his parents, Dave Palmieri and Sandra Martinez-Zuniga, and his brother, Kai Zuniga Palmieri, 6, with helping him traverse the city, take photos and fact-check content. Ari’s grandmother, Mary Ann de Vida Palmieri, who lives near Boston, Massachusetts, edited his text and then they met on Zoom to review changes. One of his grandmother’s friends encouraged Ari to publish the work, so the family turned to to self-publish.

Ari Martinez Palmieri holds up the book, smiling for the camera.
Ari Martinez Palmieri with his book, “Bull City: A Kid’s Guide to Durham,” at the Museum of Durham History, which has it on display.

“My friends really like it,” Ari says. “I remember some compliments. I switched schools [from Central Park School for Children] this summer; I haven’t really told that many people [at my new school]. One of my friends bought it at The Regulator Bookshop.” The book is also on display at the Museum of Durham History and is available for purchase at The Regulator, Casa Bella Market and online at

Ari, whose favorite subjects are math and geography, wants to continue following his curiosity and is considering a second book. “I feel like this was a big project, and the funny thing was that I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, I’d love to learn more,’” Ari says about finding additional points of interest. “It just kept on going until we said, ‘OK, I don’t think the book is done.’ … I have a bunch of plans.”

“It was a good learning experience,” Dave says. “There was a lot of editing, editing and editing. It was eye-opening that it was more of a back-and-forth process rather than just sit down, take care of it, and you’re done.”

Sandra says she’s proud of Ari’s tenacity to complete the book. “He persisted, and he was enjoying it,” she says. “He’s like that in other things in life. He was in chess club last week, and when he started, he said he didn’t have much of a chance.” But by the end of the week, his tenacity improved his game. Sandra says Ari likes people who appreciate best efforts rather than focusing on perfection. “The book shows how he has this growth mindset,” she says. “And Dave and I are very intentional about [supporting our sons’ interests] – we just want them to try their best and go and have fun.”

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