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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation is a novel in two volumes that explores the American Revolution from a new point-of-view: that of an African American boy. When the founding fathers declared independence from British rule, they did so in the name of freedom from oppression. This is certainly something of a hypocrisy when you consider that the grand notion of freedom did not extend to the large population of African slaves who also called America their home. Octavian is a young boy living in Boston on the eve of the revolution. Raised in near-isolation by a strange group of philosophers and scientists, Octavian receives a classical education of the finest order. Despite his privileged childhood, there’s a carefully guarded secret regarding this boy and when that secret is one day revealed, Octavian is horrified. He rebels against the men who have cared for him, only to find that his unusual upbringing has left him woefully unprepared to meet the prejudices of the real world. Octavian finds himself in the unique position of being forced to face a frightening future even while grappling with the terrors of his past—and with no time to linger in the present. There is a war on, after all, and Octavian must choose the lesser of two evils—the ruling British or the rebelling Americans, both of whom are making promises that all parties know can’t be kept. Author M.T. Anderson presents a way of life and a set of characters that don’t know the outcome of the Colonies’ war with England, and that have some very difficult choices to make. Anderson tells Octavian’s history in a forthright, intimate voice with no frills attached, and it is a story that the reader will feel utterly compelled to explore. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation asks a new set of questions about the history we thought we knew, questions that are worth asking whether we took American History last year or last decade.
posted Dec 24, 2009 at 1:25PM
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