Category Archives: Technology & Science

Spare Parts

Spare Parts

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Paperback
240 pages • $14.00
ISBN: 9780374534981
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Los Inventores
Spanish Language Edition
Paperback
224 pages • $14.00
ISBN: 9780374284503

Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream

Joshua Davis

Finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

Spare Parts is a delightful book . . . Davis writes well, and he keeps his plot moving swiftly . . . A great American story.”

—Peter Carlson, The Washington Post

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.

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

“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 

“This is important reading . . . Young adults will benefit from from reading and discussing this realistic, eye-opening chronicle . . . Davis pulls no punches as he describes the grim sociopolitical atmosphere that allows the oppression of talented people for no morally acceptable reason. The four young inventors and their struggles helped spur the DREAMers movement.”—Donna Chavez, Booklist (starred review)

“A gratifying human interest story that calls attention to the plight and promise of America’s undocumented youth.”Library Journal

“Davis takes what could have been another feel-good story of triumphant underdogs and raises the stakes by examining the difficulties of these young immigrants in the context of the societal systems that they briefly and temporarily overcame.”Publishers Weekly

Joshua Davis © Sebastian Mlynarski

© 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:

Alamo Heights High School (TX); Broward College (FL); The Browning School (NY); Cedar Valley College (TX); Chemeketa Community College (OR); Concordia University (TX); Hesston College (KS); Hood College (MD); Johns Hopkins University (MD); Kansas State University; Lafayette Public Library and School District (LA); Lewis University (IL); Metropolitan Community College – Maple Woods (MO); Miami University (OH); Monroe Community College (NY); Naugatuck Valley Community College (CT); Nash Community College (NC); North Iowa Area Community College; North Lake College (TX); Norwalk Community College (CT); Oakland University, The Honors College (MI); Pasadena City College (CA); Providence College (RI); Queensborough Community College (NY); Rutgers University, Honors College (NJ); Salem State University (MA); Santa Ana College; Stony Brook University (NY); Texas A&M University, University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science; University of Michigan College of Engineering; Washington State University, Vancouver; Winthrop University (SC)

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The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction

Picador
Paperback
336 pages • $16.00
ISBN: 9781250062185
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An Unnatural History

Elizabeth Kolbert

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“Arresting . . . Ms. Kolbert shows in these pages that she can write with elegiac poetry about the vanishing creatures of this planet, but the real power of her book resides in the hard science and historical context she delivers here, documenting the mounting losses that human beings are leaving in their wake.”

The New York Times

Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

© Barry Goldstein

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

The Sixth Extinction has been adopted for 16 First-Year Experience programs at:

Colgate University (NY); Lafayette College (PA); Linfield College (OR); Occidental College (CA); Feather River College (CA); Millsaps College (MS); Montclair State University’s Presidential Scholars Program (NJ); NYU-Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Piedmont Virginia Community College; Rowan University (NJ); Saint Francis High School (CA); Stanford University (CA);  University of Michigan – Flint; University of Vermont; Villanova University (PA); Williams College (MA)

Mercies in Disguise

Mercies in Disguise

St. Martin’s Griffin
Paperback
272 pages • $16.99
ISBN: 9781250064349
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A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them

Gina Kolata

“A moving, suspenseful page-turner that’s likely to become a classic of medical storytelling. Unlike many books about scientific quests, in which authors use patients’ personal experiences like coats of bright paint, a thin veneer for luring readers to engage with the science, this wonderful book by New York Times science writer Gina Kolata keeps the compelling human story at center stage.”

The Washington Post

If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you’d inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible? In Mercies in Disguise, New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata tells the story of the Baxleys, an almost archetypal family in a small town in South Carolina. A proud and determined clan, many of them doctors, they are struck one by one with an inscrutable illness. They finally discover the cause of the disease after a remarkable sequence of events that many saw as providential. Meanwhile, science, progressing for fifty years along a parallel track, had handed the Baxleys a resolution—not a cure, but a blood test that would reveal who had the gene for the disease and who did not. And science would offer another dilemma—fertility specialists had created a way to spare the children through an expensive process. It’s a story of a family that had to deal with unspeakable tragedy and yet did not allow it to tear them apart. And it is the story of a young woman—Amanda Baxley—who faced the future head on, determined to find a way to disrupt her family’s destiny.

© Andrew Brucker

Gina Kolata is a writer and medical reporter for The New York Times. She has previously written several books, including Flu, and edited collections of popular science writing. Ms. Kolata lives with her husband in Princeton, New Jersey.

Mercies in Disguise has been adopted for First-Year Experience programs at:

Hood College (MD)

Live Work Work Work Die

Live Work Work Work Die

Metropolitan Books
Hardcover
320 pages • $28.00
ISBN: 9781627794855
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Paperback Available in April 2019

A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley

Corey Pein

“A serious contribution to journalism about the tech industry.”

—Nikil Saval, The New York Times Book Review

At the height of the startup boom, Corey Pein set out for Silicon Valley with little more than a smartphone and his wits. His goal: to learn how such an overhyped industry could possibly sustain itself as long as it has. Determined to cut through the clichés of big tech—the relentless optimism, the mandatory enthusiasm, and the earnest, incessant repetition of vacuous buzzwords—Pein decided that he would need to take an approach as unorthodox as the companies he would soon be covering. To truly understand the delirious reality of the tech entrepreneurs, he knew he would have to inhabit that perspective— he would have to become an entrepreneur himself. Thus Pein begins his journey—skulking through gimmicky tech conferences, pitching his over-the-top business ideas to investors, and encouraging a cast of outrageous characters: cyborgs and con artists, Teamsters and transhumanists, jittery hackers and naïve upstart programmers who work endlessly and obediently, never thinking to question their place in the system. In showing us this frantic world, Pein challenges the positive, feel-good self-image that the tech tycoons have crafted—as nerdy and benevolent creators of wealth and opportunity—revealing their dangerously inflated egos and their insidious plans for the future. Live Work Work Work Die is a troubling portrait of a self-obsessed industry bent on imposing its disturbing visions on the rest of us.

Corey Pein

© Patricia Sauthoff

Corey Pein is an investigative reporter and a regular contributor to The Baffler. A former staff writer for Willamette Week, he has also written for Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, The American Prospect, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

 

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In Shock

In Shock

Picador
Paperback
272 pages • $18.00
ISBN: 9781250293770
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My Journey From Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope

Dr. Rana Awdish

“Awdish’s story is grueling: a catastrophic miscarriage, multiple organ failure, the uncertainty that accompanies a sudden medical crisis. In Shock searches for a glimmer of hope in life’s darkest moments, and finds it.”

The Washington Post

Dr. Rana Awdish never imagined that an emergency trip to the hospital would result in hemorrhaging nearly all of her blood volume and losing her unborn first child. But after her first visit, Dr. Awdish spent months fighting for her life, enduring consecutive major surgeries and experiencing multiple overlapping organ failures. At each step of the recovery process, she was faced with something even more unexpected: repeated cavalier behavior from her fellow physicians—indifference following human loss, disregard for anguish and suffering, and an exacting emotional distance. In Shock allows the reader to transform alongside Dr. Awidsh and watch what she discovers in our carefully-cultivated, yet often misguided, standard of care. She comes to understand the fatal flaws in her profession and in her own past actions as a physician while achieving, through unflinching presence, a crystalline vision of a new and better possibility for us all. As Dr. Awdish finds herself up against the same self-protective partitions she was trained to construct as a medical student and physician, she artfully illuminates the dysfunction of disconnection. Shatteringly personal, and yet wholly universal, she offers a brave road map for anyone
navigating illness while presenting physicians with a new paradigm and rationale for embracing the emotional bond between doctor and patient.

Rana Awdish

© Rana Awdish

Dr. Rana Awdish is the Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and a critical care physician. She was recently named Medical Director of Care Experience for the Henry Ford Health System. She was awarded the Speak-Up Hero Award for her work on improving communication, as well as the Critical Care Teaching Award.

Automating Inequality

Automating Inequality

St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover
272 pages • $26.99
ISBN: 9781250074317
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How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Virginia Eubanks

“Riveting (an accomplishment for a book on technology and policy). Its argument should be widely circulated, to poor people, social service workers and policymakers, but also throughout the professional classes. Everyone needs to understand that technology is no substitute for justice.”

The New York Times Book Review

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems—rather than humans—control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor. In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline, and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.

Virginia Eubanks

© Sadaf Rassoul Cameron

Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Digital Dead End and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements. Today, she is a founding member of the Our Data Bodies Project and a Fellow at New America. She lives in Troy, New York.

Verax

Verax

Metropolitan Books
240 pages • $25.00
ISBN: 9781627793551
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The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A Graphic Novel

Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil Bendib

9/11 not only marked the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history, but also unleashed electronic spying by the government on a massive worldwide scale. In a wholly original and engaging telling, Verax (“truth-teller” and one of Edward Snowden’s code names) recounts the full story of American electronic surveillance post 9/11, in brilliant comics form. We follow Pratap Chatterjee, journalist sleuth, as he dives deep into the world of electronic surveillance and introduces its cast of characters: developers, companies, users, government agencies, whistleblowers, journalists, and, in a leading role, the devices themselves. He explains the complex ways governments follow the movements and interactions of individuals and countries, whether by tracking the players of Angry Birds, deploying “Stingrays” that listen in on phone calls or “deep packet inspection” that mines email, or by weaponizing programs with names like Howlermonkey and Godsurge to attack the infrastructure of states such as Iran and remotely guide the U.S. missiles used in drone killings. He chronicles the complicity of corporations like Apple, Verizon, and Google, and the daring of the journalists and whistleblowers—from Snowden to Julian Assange to the lesser-known NSA Four—who made sure that the world would know. Finally, he gives a prognosis for the future of electronic surveillance, and for the fortunes of those who resist it. By condensing a crucial event of the 21st century and a broad, complex history into a compact, engaging, and vivid work, Verax is a significant contribution that is certain to last.

Pratap Chatterjee

© Khalil

Khalil

© Khalil

Pratap Chatterjee is the author of Halliburton’s Army and Iraq, Inc. An investigative reporter who focuses on U.S. warfare and technology, he has served as a commentator for BBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC; written for The New Republic, the Financial Times, and the Guardian; produced segments for Democracy Now! and Channel Four, and hosted a weekly radio show for KPFA Pacifica radio. He lives in Oakland, California.

Khalil Bendib is the co-author of Zahra’s Paradise, which was published in 16 languages and nominated for two Eisner Awards. Born in Algeria, Bendib has lived in Berkeley, California since the 1980s. After eight years as political cartoonist at the San Bernardino County Sun, Bendib now distributes his cartoons to 1700 independent publications nationwide and co-hosts a weekly one-hour show, Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, on Pacifica station KPFA.