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Common Reading

“Driver's License” by Meredith Castile

Meredith Castile is currently a writer at Google. She did her graduate studies in English and comparative literature at Stanford. Driver's License was written while she was living in Vienna, Austria.

Driver's License is one book among a collection, called Object Lessons, about the hidden lives of seemingly ordinary objects. In the early chapters of the book, Ms. Castile explains how this small document we hold in our wallet evolved from proof of one's ownership of a vehicle to become proof of so much more (e.g., one's age, driving aptitude, citizenship). As is the case for many objects that hold such value, attempts at forgery evolved over time, and Ms. Castile illustrates how advancements in technology, art, and sheer creativity have kept the dance going between the forgers, and the forgery-catchers. The second half of the book, which will serve as the main foundation for your model class discussion at New Student Orientation, explores the role that the driver's license has played in the disenfranchisement of underrepresented populations. From voter suppression to hindering one's ability to commute for work, the driver's license has, at times, left an ugly mark on American history. Is a similar pattern true for other nations? What will become of the driver's license in the future, when humans are no longer needed behind the wheel?

Read the Provost's Letter Learn how to enter the "Driver's License" Essay Contest