Farrar, Straus and Giroux
240 pp • $14.00
Spanish Language Edition
240 pages • $14.00
Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream
“Spare Parts is an unforgettable tale of hope and human ingenuity. Joshua Davis offers a moving testament to how teamwork, perseverance, and a few good teachers can lift up and empower even the humblest among us.”—Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark
In 2004, four Latino teenagers arrived at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They were born in Mexico but raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they attended an underfunded public high school. No one had ever suggested to Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they might amount to much—but two inspiring science teachers had convinced these impoverished, undocumented kids from the desert who had never even seen the ocean that they should try to build an underwater robot.
And build a robot they did.
They were going up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, including a team from MIT backed by a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. The Phoenix teenagers had scraped together less than $1,000 and built their robot out of scavenged parts. This was never a level competition—and yet, against all odds . . . they won!
But this is just the beginning for these four, whose story—which became a key inspiration to the DREAMers movement—will go on to include first-generation college graduations, deportation, bean-picking in Mexico, and service in Afghanistan. Joshua Davis’s Spare Parts is a story about overcoming insurmountable odds and four young men who proved they were among the most patriotic and talented Americans in this country—even as the country tried to kick them out.
“Joshua Davis tells the story of these four plucky teenagers and their robot in his fast-moving [book] . . . It’s a feel-good tale of scrappy underdogs beating long odds. But there’s more to the story, and Spare Parts illuminates the human side of two polarizing political issues: immigration and education . . . [It] is a delightful book, perfect for entertaining and inspiring . . . [These young men] have a great story to tell—a great American story.”—Peter Carlson, The Washington Post
“It’s the most American of stories: how determination and ingenuity can bring triumph over long odds. There are too few stories like these written about Latino students. Poignant and beautifully told, Spare Parts makes you feel their frustration at the obstacles and indignities faced by Cristian, Lorenzo, Luis, and Oscar—and to cheer as they rise to overcome each one of them.” —Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey
© Sebastian Mlynarski
Joshua Davis is a contributing editor at Wired and a cofounder of Epic magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his family.
Spare Parts has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:
Hood College (MD); Salem State University (MA)