Miss SandraRosa’s Book Review: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation

On Monday, December 18th, the teen book club will discuss The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T Anderson. This book was chosen to accompany the traveling exhibit, “Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865” that is currently on display at the Slidell branch.

Octavian and his mother, Cassiopeia, live at the Novanglian College of Lucidity in Boston during the time of the American Revolution. Though royal blood runs through their veins, they are the property of the College and Mr. 03-01, head scientist. In his youth, Octavian thinks nothing of the odd things he experiences at the hands of Mr. 03-01 and his cohorts but eventually, he realizes that he himself is an experiment. Every detail of his life is documented and unlike the other enslaved people at the College, Octavian is dressed in finery and taught Latin and Greek and learns to master the violin.

The Novanglian College of Lucidity is interested in determining whether the mental capacities of an African person can mirror the mental capacities of a European person. Octavian, naturally, is conflicted upon discovering the truth about his upbringing, his lessons, and his treatment. Throughout the story, Octavian and his mother try to navigate their increasingly odd circumstances with grace and dignity but there is only so much they can do given their enslaved status.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to come to our discussion!

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