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The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia

A Novel

Mary Helen Stefaniak (Author, Creighton University)


“A delightful story. . . . Once you enter its pages and the worlds therein, it’s hard to leave.”—Carol Bicak, Omaha World Herald

Narrator Gladys Cailiff is eleven years old in 1938 when a worldly schoolteacher turns the small town of Threestep, Georgia, upside down. Miss Grace Spivey defies the traditional curriculum and racial boundaries alike, regaling her charges with readings from the Thousand Nights and a Night and casting a gifted African American student as "chief engineer" of the town's annual festival, newly reinvented as the Baghdad Bazaar. But her progressive actions are not without consequence and ultimately culminate in a night of death-defying stories that take readers on a magic carpet ride from a schoolroom in the South to the banks of the Tigris (and back again).

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • September 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34113-3
  • 5.5 × 8.2 in / 342 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

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  1. Book CoverThe Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel



Endorsements & Reviews

“A novel fairly brimming with inventive storytelling and comic brio.” — Booklist

“Wonderfully seductive, one of those rare books you disappear into wholly. It’s joyous, shamelessly funny, heartbreaking, and page after page it gives you what you didn’t expect. This is a novel you’ll want to hand deliver to a friend.” — David Long, author of The Inhabited World

“Wonderfully engaging … a great tribute to the power of education, strong women and the fine art of storytelling… an intricate dazzling pattern of history and imagination and truth.” — Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes

“A heartfelt, redemptive, and irresistible novel. Stefaniak knows that every story is many stories, and she handles the complex tales of romance, family, race relations, and secrets with intelligence, grace, and tenderness.” — John Dufresne, author of Louisiana Power & Light and Love Warps the Mind a Little

“Mary Helen Stefaniak is a born storyteller, with a fantastic gift for mingling the exotic and the ordinary, the comic and the heartrending. Her tale of drastic change coming to a small Southern town in the 1930s is filled with wild incidents, vivid characters, and a surprise at every turn—a delight to read.” — Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books

“This novel has strong, long legs. I hope it walks forever. Besides delivering suspenseful, eloquently detailed, non-sentimental prose, it spoons out a big dose of clarity that America needs.” — Clyde Edgerton, author of The Bible Salesman

“So lush with detail that most scenes possess cinematic immediacy. Ultimately, reading about the triumphs and tragedies of the Cailiffs will make readers feel right at home amid Georgia pines and pecans.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

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  1. Book CoverThe Turk and My Mother: A Novel


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