Tag Archives: civil rights

The Kingdom on the Waves, Octavian Nothing Book II by M.T. Anderson

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I read Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation The Pox Party several years back and I thought I’d finally give it’s ending a go. But PHEW, The Kingdom on the Waves is not a joke. I give mad props to Anderson for researching American history as much as he did, even the language he got spot on. But damn. I have a MUCH higher than average vocabulary and even I found myself reaching for the dictionary every few pages. The fact that this book was written for teenagers is kind of staggering.

It follows the adventures of well-educated mulatto Octavian after his and his tutor’s escape from the College of Lucidity–where he previously learned they had educated him and studied him only to determine if Negros were an equal race to whites. Dr. Trefusis and himself stumble into British-occupied Boston during the Revolutionary War and must quickly take sides. They decide to get on board with Lord Dunmore, who promises freedom to any black man who joins his counter-revolutionary army.

Too bad Lord Dunmore’s offer isn’t as great as it seems. A dirty politician?? Who would’ve guessed it?!

Parts of TKOTW read as Octavian’s personal diary and his experiences with the war. He also learns some new information about his late mother. The other part is predominately letters from politicians and generals trying to bring the war to some conclusion. Meanwhile, Octavian is reduced to laboring and killing and watching his friends be cut down beside him. Nasty stuff.

I think Anderson gets 5 out of 5 stars for research and linguistic accuracy, but for readability… not so much. The book wasn’t as boring as it was difficult and too wordy in many places. Sometimes I caught myself reading aloud to piece together what they were talking about. I get that this demonstrated the supreme intelligence of Octavian and his tutor, but come on!

If you’re writing a book for youngsters, make it a little more digestible, will ya?

3 musket balls of 5

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(See? Cairo even found it tiresome!)

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin goes down in history as one of the most controversial books of all time. Not only was it about the horrors of slavery and the wrongdoings of the South, it was also written by a woman in 1852. Many say it’s the spark that ignited the Civil War. Women didn’t do things like that back then. I’m sure HBS was shunned from all the snooty needlework groups in town. 

Pretty deep stuff.

UTC is kind of incomparable as far as a regular book review goes. Since it was written so long ago during such a pivotal time, it will forever go down as a classic. Very controversial, but a classic nonetheless. Many schools have banned it because of it’s explicit use of the “N” word and it’s gruesome punishment scenes. I personally think everyone should have to read it.

America’s past is an ugly one, but we can’t shy away from it or let it be forgotten.

The reality of our country is that it was founded using some pretty terrible practices. It wasn’t founded on kindness and consideration and baby unicorns. It was built on the backs of African slaves–humans treated little better than farm animals. Their blood, sweat, and tears are what enriched the very ground we walk on. It’s a sensitive subject for whites and blacks alike.

HBS captured the uglier aspects of slavery as best as a white woman could during that time. Many of the characters and the events are based on the anecdotes of people that really existed. And even if you take it as purely a work of historical fiction, it definitely opens your eyes and your heart about that time period. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be treated so cruelly–with hardly any hope for a better future. And being sold to a new master and being torn away from my family FOREVER…. Forget it.

That being said, UTC isn’t the easiest book to read. Not only was it written in a much different style than we are used to, but good portions of the African American dialogue are in ebonics and very difficult to interpret at times. HBS also tended to yank readers out of the groove of things by calling attention to the fact that you’re reading a story. “And now if you the reader would be kind enough to follow me to a different place….” blah blah, that type of thing. Publishers these days would skin an author alive if they tried to pull that.

But on the whole, considering how large a book it is, it’s actually an interesting read. I didn’t dread it as I have with some other classics, and I can definitely say I learned a lot.

Oh, but don’t expect a happy ending…

3 cotton bales of 5

(Also, this book is now public domain. That means the copyright has run out and anyone can use it. Because of this you can find free versions for your Kindle, which is what I did.)