Common Reading Program

The Common Reading Program provides the WSU Vancouver community with a common intellectual experience to stimulate discussion and critical thinking and to encourage a sense of community. Think of it as a book club, only bigger.

The featured book for 2017/18 is “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream,” by Joshua Davis.

About the book

Spare Parts book cover. The cover shows a silhouette of four male teenagers carrying another who is cheering with a raised fist, through a sunset.“Spare Parts” is a moving story about four Mexican American high school students living in Phoenix, Ariz., who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds as they learn about building robots and about surviving in the United States as undocumented students. Thanks to the guidance of a special teacher, these teenagers build a robot to compete in the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Davis learned about their remarkable story from an account manager at Intel, who sent an email to tell him about the success of a robotics team in an impoverished area of Phoenix. Davis initially ignored the email for weeks, then decided to do a little digging. He ended up on the phone with Fredi Lajvardi, the high school teacher in charge of the robotics team. Thus began the telling of the tale about Oscar, Lorenzo, Christian and Hector.

In light of the recent debate on immigration, and the attention focused on this issue in the current political climate, “Spare Parts” is timely. More specifically, the role of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation and the protection currently provided for Dreamers are under debate.

“It’s a compelling read that showcases the importance of hope, of having someone who believes in you, and of believing in yourself,” said Suzanne Smith, special assistant to the vice chancellor of academic affairs, who is leading the Common Reading Program. “It should spark some interesting conversations around the issue of immigration and should inspire students to reach for the stars.”

Classroom uses

Most new students will use the book in History 105, “The Roots of Contemporary Issues.” It may also be used in English composition classes. Other classes may select individual chapters.


How to get a copy

First-year students will receive a copy of the book. Current students, staff, faculty and community members are encouraged to borrow the book from the library or purchase a copy and join the conversations.

WSU Vancouver librarians have put together an online subject guide with information on upcoming events and how to get the book, as well as research resources on immigration topics.

WSU systemwide Common Reading program

All WSU campuses have selected a book that adheres to the theme “Frontiers of Technology, Health and Society.” A selection committee on each campus reviewed 34 books last fall. “Ready Player One,” the Common Reading book for Pullman, was also selected for the Tri-Cities, Spokane, Everett and Global campuses.


For more information, contact Suzanne Smith, 360-546-9714, or