The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia

Norton. Sept. 2010. c.352p. ISBN 9780393063103. $24.95. F
In 1938, a new teacher came to the one-room schoolhouse in Threestep, GA, courtesy of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The story of Miss Grace Spivey, who was educated in France and at Barnard College and traveled in Africa and the Near East, is told by thoroughly entranced 11-year-old Gladys Cailiff. Miss Spivey uses Sir Richard F. Burton's ten-volume The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night as her primary textbook. After a successful Halloween event, held a day early so as not to conflict with the activities of the "Ku Klucks," Miss Spivey even manages a full-fledged Baghdad Bazaar, complete with camels. If that's not enough, she is seen spending her free time educating the local black children, including mechanically gifted Theo Boykin, who creates the special effects for the bazaar. Gladys's young voice is perfect for showing how folks thrive and struggle when such a force enters the mainstream, as she herself questions where the lines are drawn and how easily they can be shifted.
VERDICT Though set a generation later and in a different sociological stratum, this new work by Stefaniak (The Turk and My Mother) should appeal to fans of Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing