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Review: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation By M. T. Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M. T. Anderson won the National Book Award this year and was named a Printz Honor Book. It really does deserve all the attention it has received.

Octavian Nothing, the son of an African princess, tells us the story of his childhood and adolescence spent among pre-Revolutionary American Enlightenment philosophers who are giving him a classical education. He is blissfully unaware that he is part of a research project they’re conducting. He is also unaware that he and his beautiful mother are both slaves. When the philosophers’ funding dries up, the truth of his situation is soon brought home to him.

The book is written in the style of an eighteenth century collection of memoirs and letters. The writing is sophisticated, at first even demanding, until readers are quickly pulled into this compelling story about an engaging character. History, philosophy, science, war, culture, psychology—there’s plenty here to hold an adult reader.


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My name's Peter Bryant, I come from Bakersfield, California. I was born in Seattle and have just started this blog in the summer of 2021.

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