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Extended Audio Sample The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel, by Mary Helen Stefaniak Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (289 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mary Helen Stefaniak Narrator: Robynn Rodriguez Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Narrator Gladys Cailiff is eleven years old in 1938 when a new schoolteacher turns Threestep, Georgia, upside down. Miss Grace Spivey is a well-traveled young woman who 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 and her project transform the lives of everyone around her: Gladys’ older brother Force (with his movie-star looks), their 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.

Populated by unforgettable characters—including three impressive camels—The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia rides a magic carpet from a segregated schoolroom in Georgia to the banks of the Tigris—and back again—in an entrancing feat of storytelling.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Stefaniak delivers a deeply engaging story from the heart of 1930s-era Threestep, Georgia, that manages to include stop offs in 1775 Baghdad and 1864 Savannah along the way…Full of intrigue.”

    Publishers Weekly

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


  • “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

  • “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

  • “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

  • “This novel has strong, long legs. I hope it walks forever. Besides delivering suspenseful, eloquently detailed, nonsentimental prose, it spoons out a big dose of clarity that America needs.”

    Clyde Edgerton, author of The Bible Salesman

  • “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

  • “Stefaniak sets the stage for likable narrator Gladys Cailiff, a smart, witty, and incisive eleven-year-old.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize for Fiction
  • Selected for the September 2010 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Chris | 2/11/2014

    " Absolutly clever and wonderful. Twists and turns and story in a story, in a story. Amazing. I'd teach it in a moment - if I were still in the classroom. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Dora | 2/10/2014

    " The story was intriguing, and the young Gladys had a wonderful narrative voice, but there were several issues that prevented me from falling completely into the book. There were a few too many bunny trails, a dramatic and oddly imagined mid book twist, and a small list of narrative details that didn't make sense to the flow of the novel. Decent, but not a book I would recommend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jane | 1/30/2014

    " Gladys Cailiff is 11 and narrates the story about an eccentric new teacher coming to her small town. Threestep Georgia in 1939 is still farms, small groceries stores, and the KKK. Ms. Spivey the new teacher brings tales from Arabia and costumes and plans that change the lives of the children and the town. I liked the Gladys story with her brother Force, sister May, Theo Boykin and, of course, the new teacher Ms. Spivey. But there may have been 1 too many other stories. The book has stories inside of stories inside of stories inside of stories etc etc. The have a purpose - there just were too many for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Luann Dillon | 1/23/2014

    " Set in 1938 small town Georgia, the narrator, 11 year old Gladys, tells the story of when 29 year old Grace Spivey comes to be the new teacher with radical ideas. She talks the town into tranforming the downtown into Bagdad for one night and perform Alladin's Lamp. Camels enter into the plot as well as tales of ancient Bagdad. Racism, sexism and fear are all part of this small town. Characters are interesting people, plot is funny and sad at the same time. "

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About the Author
Author Mary Helen Stefaniak

Mary Helen Stefaniak is the prizewinning author of The Turk and My Mother and Self Storage and Other Stories. She lives in Omaha and Iowa City.