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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing,…

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I:… (2006)

by M. T. Anderson

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First-hand account of slave Octavian Nothing's life in US Revolutionary times. Son of a beautiful African princess (whose name we never learn) he, too, is handsome, well-educated, talented, and smart. Octavian is, at best, a man without liberty, and, at worst, less than a man but a human specimen. Boston and area is in upheaval and the violence is real and arbitrary. Real life events include a "Pox Party" -- attendees are exposed to Small Pox -- those fortunate enough to survive develop a permanent immunity. O's mother, alas, dies and he runs away. He is recaptured but his life as a fugitive has begun. Hard-hitting, beautifully written... sort of the adult version of Chains. ( )
  mjspear | Mar 27, 2017 |
It only started getting interesting late in the book when it shifted from Octavian's view point.

Octavian's whole childhood was a science experiment. Measuring and observing everything - even his excrement, trying to be logical not emotional. So his early view is rather cold and uninvolved. ( )
  nx74defiant | Mar 5, 2017 |
This was an interesting take on the American slave experience - a black woman and her son, subject to a social experiment with all the indignities that entails. There is the background of the Revolutionary War fought for freedom (and yes, there is definitely irony there in seeing this from the viewpoint of a slave). ( )
  tjsjohanna | Dec 27, 2016 |
Beautiful and painful story of Octavian, a prince brought up in luxury with the finest education, who discovers that he's merely been an experiment in whether the African races can actually learn and move beyond the menial. The unrest surrounding the beginnings of the American Revolution interfere and the experiment is dropped, leaving Octavian a slave. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
Raised by a mysterious group of rational philosophers in 18th century Massachusetts, with his regal and similarly admired and studied mother, we readers quickly realize that Octavian and his mother were taken (before Octavian was actually born) from the Egba people, from the Oyo nation in western Africa. Black Africans in a world of colonial America, were managed, measured and followed by the eccentric owner, a Mr. Gitney, who has acquired them both for the purposes of scientific elucidation. Through journal-like narrative, and 18th century style, Octavian shares his fantastical story, including the strange visit of a British benefactor, the recently designated new Lord Cheldthorpe, the artistic, scientific and musical pursuits encouraged by Gitney's group of philosophers, and the eruption of hostilities between the American rebels and the royal British forces. We follow Octavian as he becomes more and more aware of his true state, at the same time political upheaval is growing on the colonies. The rest of the tale is told via letters from a young revolutionary marched with his friends and neighbors of New Hampshire, who befriends the runaway Octavian. He relates both Octavian's efforts in the rebellion and the beginning of the American Revolution around Boston; the book ends with Octavian's recapture and surprise escape, engineered by his Latin/Greek tutor. Definitely a book worthy of discerning readers - would be a GREAT AP Lang or AP Lit chosen novel, a real companion to Frederick Douglass' autobiography. ( )
  BDartnall | Sep 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
It only started getting interesting late in the book when it shifted from Octavian's view point.

Octavian's whole childhood was a science experiment. Measuring and observing everything - even his excrement, trying to be logical not emotional. So his early view is rather cold and uninvolved.

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Anderson, M. T.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
James, Peter FrancisReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was raised in a gaunt house with a garden; my earliest recollections are of floating lights in the apple-trees.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763624020, Hardcover)

A gothic tale becomes all too shockingly real in this mesmerizing magnum opus by the acclaimed author of FEED.

It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy's regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson's extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Various diaries, letters, and other manuscripts chronicle the experiences of Octavian, a young African American, from birth to age sixteen, as he is brought up as part of a science experiment in the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War.… (more)

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Candlewick Press

2 editions of this book were published by Candlewick Press.

Editions: 0763624020, 0763636797

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