“Spare Parts” Selected as 2020-21 USA Common Read Book

Posted on May 26, 2020
Joy Washington

Spare Parts book cover

The book “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream” has been selected as the University of South Alabama’s 2020-2021 Common Read/Common World book selection. The book, authored by writer and film producer Joshua Davis, was chosen for its potential to inspire, educate and empower students, faculty and staff.

Common Read, the voluntary program for all USA students, is designed to improve understanding of differences and commonalities across the world while engaging in academic discourse and critical thinking. During the upcoming academic year, students and faculty will interact with the book in a variety of academic settings. USA alumni and the local community are invited to join the reading effort and events.

Published in 2014, “Spare Parts” is a classic underdog story about four Mexican-American impoverished teenagers from Phoenix — Oscar, Cristian, Luis, and Lorenzo — who were members of a robotics team. With very little financial support, the team, with the encouragement of their dedicated science teachers, took on the challenge of building an underwater robot with scavenged parts.

“This book is about overcoming insurmountable odds, and the four teenagers proved to be among the most talented,” said Dr. Krista Harrell, associate dean of students and co-chair of the Common Read committee. “They had heart and the will to win. This selection was made after much deliberation by a committee made up of USA students, faculty, and staff.”

The teenagers’ robot didn’t have the best look, but it had the hardware that was needed to win the national robotics competition, taking down the well-funded reigning champion, MIT.

Dr. Pamela R. Moore, assistant professor of the College of Education and Professional Studies and co-chair of Common Read at USA, notes this book tells compelling stories about each of the teenagers and their challenges as immigrants.

“Spare Parts is an interesting read with many conversation starters. It touches upon issues such as immigration, and equity and access to STEM tools,” Moore said. “Even with topics that may sometimes lead to spirited discussions, however, it’s the overarching themes of optimism and hope despite the odds that prevail. Integration into course design and campus programming should definitely be beneficial for all.” 

Numerous books were reviewed by the committee before selecting “Spare Parts.” The selected book was also adapted into a film by Lions Gate starring George Lopez, Marisa Tomei and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Common Read/Common World is a University-wide program that is a partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

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