The Cailiffs Of Baghdad, Georgia- by Mary Helen Stefaniak- 339 pages
Narrator Gladys Cailiff is eleven years old in 1938 when a new, well-traveled young schoolteacher turns a small Georgia town upside down. Miss Grace Spivey believes in field trips, Arabian costumes, and reading aloud from her ten-volume set of The Thousand Nights and a Night. The real trouble begins when she decides to revive the annual town festival as an exotic Baghdad bazaar. Miss Spivey transforms the lives of everyone around her: Gladys's older brother Force (with his movie-star looks), her pregnant sister May (a gifted storyteller herself), and especially the Cailiffs' African American neighbor, young Theo Boykin, whose creative genius becomes the key to a colorful, hidden history of the South.
My Review: 3 stars
A lot is packed into these 339 pages and from the beginning I was sucked right in. The narrator is a likeable eleven year old girl and she tells the story well. From life in the south, racism, educational rights, “ku klucks”, large families, loyalties and friendships, this books captures it all. I found the mirroring of Arabian Nights to this small town interesting and loved how it captivated the small town in both good and bad ways. There are many stories within stories in this book which apparently mirrors the book Arabian Nights or Ten Thousand Nights and a Night, which is being read to the school children by the new and outlandish (in a good way) teacher. She is the pivotal character who creates the changes that continually fall upon this town and through this, we learn how Threestep, Georgia ends up being call Baghdad, Georgia. Lots of play on white and black differences were peppered throughout the story such as in skin color, costumes or in the white dirt proudly found in this town.
Had it not been for the last quarter of the book where an actual storyteller tells us the historical facts of Baghdad, Iraq and its connection to both the book of “clever things” and the US state of Georgia, I’d have given this book a higher rating. This section became laborious to read. I found myself skipping small sections at a time to get back to the main narrator once again.
Quotes I liked:
- “It just goes to show you that it’s true, what my momma always said. Sometimes your mouth can ruin you.”
- “She looked out the window then, as if the past might be spread out there for her to view.”
Tags: Fiction, 2012
Labels: 2012, Fiction