2019 Campus Reading Program Kicks Off in September

Spare Parts Book Cover

Spare Parts Book Cover

San Jose State University’s Campus Reading Program for 2019 will kick off on September 11, with movie screenings, discussions and guest speaker events planned through the middle of November.

The book selection this year, Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot and the Battle for the American Dream, by Joshua Davis, is an underdog story about four Mexican American Teenagers from Phoenix who form a robotics team with the encouragement of their high school teachers. The teens go on to challenge reigning champions from MIT at a national robotics competition. The book, a gift from President Mary Papazian, was given to all incoming first-time frosh as well as all new tenure-track faculty.

The campus reading program committee selected Spare Parts because it reflects SJSU’s commitment to inclusion, diversity and understanding across differences.

“We are pleased that the book documents how teachers can make a significant difference in the lives of students, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds,” said Kathleen McSharry, a professor of English who coordinates the Campus Reading Program. “Our diverse array of programming is designed to stimulate discussion about critical issues surrounding immigration and undocumented families, access to educational opportunities, and STEM education.”

Oscar Vazquez, a student featured in Spare Parts, will speak on campus and sign books on Monday, September 16, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Hammer Theatre.  Julio Navarette, an SJSU alumnus who was undocumented while in college, will share his journey on Tuesday, October 8, at 7 p.m. in Student Union 1A. He now teaches at American High School in Fremont and was voted Teacher of the Year by his students.

In conjunction with Campus Life’s Spartan Speakers Series, Orange is the New Black actress and activist Diane Guerrero will speak on campus, Monday, September 30, at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

The Center for Community Learning and Leadership will host three “craftivism” sessions in which participants will discuss the book while creating community art.

See the full list of events and activities: http://www.sjsu.edu/reading/events_discussions/

The diversity of Campus Reading Program events is matched by the wide array of campus units sponsoring the events, including the College of Education, the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, the College of Humanities and the Arts, the School of Journalism, the University Library, the UndocuSpartan Resource Center, the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center, Campus Life and the Center for Community Learning and Leadership.

The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor on Law and Hope

“You have to have some idealism to go into lawyering. You have to want to help people,” said Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the crowd gathered in the Student Union Ballroom. During the October 20 event, Sotomayor discussed how her memoir, “My Beloved World,” has given her a platform to talk about her passion—the law—and to share the stories of her life in order to help others, particularly young people. View the video.

In conversation with UC Berkeley Professor of Law Melissa Murray, who teaches constitutional law and clerked for Sotomayor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Sotomayor candidly recounted stories of adversity that spurred her on instead of knocking her down. She also admitted that there are “a lot of emotions that come along with being a Supreme Court justice,” and that she often has to pinch herself to make sure it’s all real.

While she now walks the corridors of the White House (and occasionally spends time at the homes of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez), she said that staying connected to her family and bringing them along with her on her professional journey keeps her grounded. Everyone needs help sometimes, Sotomayor explained.

Throughout the event, Sotomayor spoke directly to the students seated in the first several rows in front of her. When asked about balancing family needs with pursuing an education, she explained to one student, who she welcomed on stage to take a photo with her, that getting an education is the best way to support your family in the long term, no matter the immediate needs. Most of you are here [at San Jose State], despite the economy, because you have hope, she said.

“There isn’t a student in this room who should ever give up, “ said Sotomayor. “You got into college. You’re here! If you can defy all odds to get in, you’ve got what it takes to make it.”

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Supreme Court Justice to Speak at SJSU

Sotomayor poster

“My mother believed education was the key to everything in the world,” Justice Sotomayor said.

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

[Editor’s note: Tickets to see Justice Sotomayor at the SJSU Student Union ballroom are sold out. The event will be streamed live from the SJSU home page. 

In addition, arrangements have been made to allow others to view the event via closed circuit television at Morris Dailey Auditorium. No tickets will be required for viewers in Morris Dailey.]

SAN JOSE, CA – As Professor Maria Luisa Alaniz read Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, she recognized a strong connection between the associate U.S. Supreme Court justice and San Jose State.

“Her story is the story of our students,” Alaniz said, so she put these observations in writing in a letter of invitation to Sotomayor. Her thoughts must have struck a chord.

The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor will speak at 4 p.m. Oct. 20 in the SJSU Student Union. She will sit down for an on-stage conversation with UC Berkeley Professor of Law Melissa Murray. Murray teaches constitutional law and clerked for Sotomayor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

Beating the odds

The speaking engagement will punctuate this semester’s Campus Reading Program, which includes four events and a series of discussion groups focusing on Sotomayor’s book, “My Beloved World.”

In nominating Judge Sotomayor to the highest court in the land, President Obama pointed out that her life story was the embodiment of the American dream,” a New York Times book review said.

“She grew up poor in a Bronx housing project at a time when gangs were carving up the neighborhood, learned she had juvenile diabetes when she was 7 and lost her father a couple of years later.

“She would go on to Princeton (where she won the prestigious Pyne Prize), Yale Law School, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and ultimately the Supreme Court, where she became the nation’s first Hispanic justice.”


Professor Alaniz observed Sotomayor’s persistence reflects that of many SJSU students.

In my 26 years of teaching, I have been amazed by the resiliency of our students, who work so hard to get through school,” she said.

Once reluctant to share her personal story, Sotomayor is now eager to help young people following in her footsteps. For this reason, event organizers will reserve the first 20 rows of seats at the campus event for students.

Sponsors include the Educational Opportunity Program, Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center, College of Social Sciences, the Department of Mexican American Studies, the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Studies, the Campus Reading Program, and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini to Receive Steinbeck Award

Hosseini poster

Khaled Hosseini will speak at SJSU Sept. 10.

Media Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – Best-selling Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini is the next recipient of the John Steinbeck Award: In the Souls of the People.

Join the The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for a special evening with the author at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the SJSU Student Union. Hosseini will sit down for an on-stage conversation with KGO Radio Host Pat Thurston. Tickets are on sale now at Eventbrite and the SJSU Event Center Box Office.

“I am greatly honored to be given an award named after John Steinbeck, not only an icon of American literature but an unrelenting advocate for social justice who so richly gave voice to the poor and disenfranchised,” Hosseini said. “Both as a person and a writer, I count myself among the millions on whose social consciousness Steinbeck has made such an indelible impact.”

The Steinbeck Award

Authorized by the Steinbeck estate, the Steinbeck Award is presented to artists and activists whose works exemplify the spirit of Steinbeck’s social engagement.

Kite Runner cover

“The Kite Runner” has spawned a movie, play and graphic novel.

Previous recipients include Joan Baez, Ken Burns, Dolores Huerta, Garrison Keillor, Rachel Maddow, John Mellencamp, Arthur Miller, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen and Studs Terkel.

“Like John Steinbeck, Hosseini has created powerful portrayals of those who are disconnected and dispossessed. Amir and Hassan, Mariam and Laila, Abdullah and Pari–those characters are well drawn and deeply felt,” said Ted Cady, Steinbeck Center board member.

Hosseini is the author of three novels: “The Kite Runner” (2003), “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (2007) and “And the Mountains Echoed” (2013). Inspired by Steinbeck, Hosseini creates characters tested by political and economic turmoil of historic proportions. In Hosseini’s case, it’s the wars that have ravaged his native Afghanistan for far too long.

Ties to San Jose State

Hosseini’s ties to San Jose State run deep. He was introduced to “The Grapes of Wrath” as an Independence High School student. His teacher, Janet Sanchez, ’73 English, will be in attendance when he accepts the Steinbeck Award. She mentored student teachers at SJSU for many years.

Hosseini went on to attend Santa Clara University and the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, but SJSU’s role in providing opportunity to many first-generation college students stuck with him. The main character in “The Kite Runner” attends SJSU.

Professor of Communication Studies Matthew Spangler’s adaption of the novel for the stage won five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards in 2009. The play is on tour in the United Kingdom. The novel was the fall 2006 selection for the SJSU Reading Program.

“This tremendously powerful book raises questions about the capacity of human beings to destroy and redeem lives, and the actions that lead to both,” Professor Elba Maldonado-Colon said.

A Line of Teachers

At a private reception before the Steinbeck Award event, President Mohammad Qayoumi’s wife, Najia Karim, will present Hosseini with her poem, “The Wrath of Grapes.” Hosseini’s mother was one of Karim’s teachers when she was growing up in Afghanistan.

President Mohammad Qayoumi will formally introduce Hosseini to the audience. Both men have been active in efforts to aid their homeland. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan by working with the United Nations Refugee Agency to build shelters for families.

“I’ve tried through the foundation to reach those people I’ve been writing about,” Hosseini said in a video on the foundation’s website. “I’ve chronicled their sufferings and their misfortunes…Those are real people and I’ve benefited from their stories so I have found it just and fitting that I should do something for them as well.”

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

"Little Princes" Author Visits Campus

“Little Princes” Author Visits Campus

"Little Princes" Author Visits Campus

Conor Grennan, author of the Campus Reading Program selection for fall 2012.

Conor Grennan, author of the Campus Reading Program selection for fall 2012, will speak and sign books beginning at 4 p.m. Oct. 25, in the Student Union’s Loma Prieta Room. This event is free and open to the public.

“Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal” tells Grennan’s story. About to turn 30 years old, he embarked on a trip around the world, starting with volunteering at the Little Princes Orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

What was supposed to be a three-month stint became much more when he learned many of the little princes were stolen from their homes by human traffickers. Grennan ended up dedicating his life to reuniting these children with their families.

He continues to travel regularly to Nepal, and he will share news from his latest trip at the SJSU event. Upcoming Campus Reading Program events include a dialogue on “Human Trafficking: A Global Concern” with Lecturer of Justice Studies Noam Perry and Assistant Professor of Health Science Miranda Worthen 3 p.m. Nov 20 in King 255/257.

Campus Reading Program Fall Events Focus on Nepal

Campus Reading Program Fall Events Focus on Nepal

The author will discuss his most recent trip to Nepal 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Student Union.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

The first in a series of special events highlighting the Campus Reading Program fall 2012 selection, Conor Grennan’s “Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal,” begins this week. Associate Professor of Geography Kate Davis will give a lecture, “Getting to Know About Nepal,” 3:30 p.m. Sept. 11 in King 225/229.  “Little Princes” is an engaging, true story of the author’s discovery of child trafficking in Nepal and what he did to address the problem.

In addition to a series of book discussions, events include SJSU Nepal Day Sept. 19, when Motherland Nepal, Associated Students and the SJSU Salzburg Program present a celebration of arts, music, dance and cuisine; a dialogue on “Unpacking Privilege: A Critical Inquiry of Little Princes” 3 p.m. Oct. 2 at MOSAIC; the author discussing his most recent trip to Nepal 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Student Union; and a dialogue on “Human Trafficking: A Global Concern” by Justice Studies Lecturer Noam Perry and Assistant Professor of Health Science Miranda Worthen 3 p.m. Nov 20 in King 255/257.

Get more information on the Campus Reading Program.

Close-up image of HeLa cells that have been stained with the dye Hoechst 33258 to make their nuclei fluorescent blue.

Reading Program Explores the Woman Behind HeLa Cells

Assistant Professor Brandon White stands next to an open cell culture incubator with HeLa cell cultures in a Department of Biological Sciences lab. Photo by Sarah Kyo.

Professor Brandon White stands next to a cell culture incubator with HeLa cell cultures in a biology lab in Duncan Hall. Photo by Sarah Kyo.

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

The polio vaccine, cancer research, gene mapping — some of molecular biology and medicine’s important breakthroughs and research can be traced back to HeLa cells.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, the Fall 2011 Campus Reading Program book selection, explores the history of this famous cell line, the woman from whom these cells originated and the ethical issues surrounding them.

Part of the reason for this book’s selection was that it stressed one of President Mohammad Qayoumi’s key themes for student success: integrative learning, said Scot Guenter, professor of American Studies.

“It deftly pulls together science, medicine, African-American history, the procedure of journalistic research and questions of ethics — and it is well written!” said Guenter, who is head of the Campus Reading Program committee.

Lacks was an African-American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. A sample of her cancerous cervix cells was taken without her or her family’s knowledge and permission. These cells would be replicated at a mass scale and used in laboratories around the world, creating one of the first established human cell lines.

People have an opportunity to view HeLa cells under a microscope at SJSU. Assistant Professor Brandon White of Biological Sciences hosts scheduled cell viewings.

White said HeLa cells are important because they’re part of the first established human cell lines and “they grow like crazy. They’re like weeds in a way.” He said he did not know much about the woman behind the cells until he read the book.

“I highly recommend the book,” White said. “Anyone can read it. You don’t have to be a scientist.”

White uses these cells in his own research. He will give a lecture about HeLa cells’ applications and uses on Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. in Room 225/229 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

Other book-related events include discussions, lectures and movie viewings. One of Lacks’ son, David, will speak in Engineering Room 189 on Oct. 3 at 3 p.m.

A committee made up of faculty and staff from different colleges and departments select each of the Campus Reading Program’s  latest titles. Guenter said the program’s main goal is to help spread “a culture of reading,” while building community at SJSU.

“We are about integrating ideas, encouraging questions and connecting minds and making new friendships while reinforcing old ones,” he said. “Check out The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks, and come join us!”

For more information, visit the Campus Reading Program’s website.