The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia (Paperback)

By Mary Helen Stefaniak

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393341133, 342pp.

Publication Date: September 19, 2011

September 2010 Indie Next List

“Eleven year old Gladys Cailiff tells the story of the teacher that turned her small town upside down. In 1938, Grace Spivey came to town as a WPA hired teacher. She believed in field trips, costumes, and reading aloud from The Thousand Nights and a Night. But the real trouble started when she decided to revive the annual town festival. Great storytelling is alive! The reader will delight in the characters (and the camels) in this tale of the depression era South.”
— Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT
View the List
Advertisement

Description

As an epigraph from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois reminds us at the start of this novel, "Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness."

Protagonist Theo Boykin is a genius, an artist, an inventor, a Leonardo DaVinci-type, whose talents are sought after by local blacks and whites alike, but even this is not enough to save him. He falls victim to "the tragedy of ignorance and the damage caused by fear," in the words of poet Rita Dove--the first African American to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate and a member of the jury that conferred on The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award for books that "make a significant contribution to our understanding of racism and our appreciation for the diversity of human cultures."

You won't forget Theo Boykin, nor will you forget his friends the Cailiffs, especially Gladys, who tells this story with love and bewilderment, and the teacher, Miss Spivey, who changes all their lives.

Advertisement