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Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6
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Stefaniak research behind the cailiffs 6

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This slideshow provides glimpses into the research and many stories that went into the writing of Mary Helen Stefaniak's novel, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia. Although most of the novel takes …

This slideshow provides glimpses into the research and many stories that went into the writing of Mary Helen Stefaniak's novel, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia. Although most of the novel takes place in 1938-39, the stories behind the story go all the way back to 9th-century Baghdad.

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  • 1. “Set in the 1930s, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia centers around one magical night when the Middle East comes radiantly to life in the deep South. Taking her cue from The Arabian Nights, Mary Helen Stefaniak has fashioned a sequence of stories within stories to uncover forgotten links in American history . . . This unique novel delves into the nation’s recent past in order to caution us about the imminent future.” —Judith Kitchen
  • 2. On Research and the Novel: The Many Stories Behind The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia
  • 3. On Research and the Novel: Some Basic Guidelines
    Explore. The Internet is useful but you need to get out there—to the library and on location, if possible. There are things you may never know if you don’t go.
    Keep a running list of questions you need to answer, but . . .
    Be ready to discover what you weren’t looking for (or what you didn’t know you were looking for).
    USE what you discover, make it serve the story: i.e., advance the action, build conflict, create/reveal character. Use it or lose it. Make it yours.
    Be ready to CUT. It’s hard to get away with “set pieces”—description or info that’s in there for its own interesting sake. Sometimes you find something so incredibly perfect you have to cut something else to make room for it.
  • 4.  
    WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HISTORIAN WRITING HISTORY AND A NOVELIST?
    “The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like.”
    --E. L. Doctorow
  • 5. “It's a tricky business, writing about figures out of history. You don't want to betray any of the known truth about them, but at the same time you know, from living your own life, that so much of the deepest truths about life stay hidden from the eyes of researchers and historians . . . . It's that part of the life of the actual figure that you can build fiction upon, based on what you know . . . .”
    Alan Cheuse, author of To Catch the Lightning
  • 6. “Is it historically accurate?”
    “It does not contradict what is known.”
    From “The Dolt” by Donald Barthelme
  • 7.
    “A big-hearted story of a Depression-era town turned upside down by a worldly teacher”
  • 8. These are the kinds of sources that helped me “tell you what it felt like” to be part of a Depression-era town in Georgia.
    Newspapers of the place and time
    Old (i.e., contemporary with the period) books
    Family stories & other oral sources (interviews & eavesdropping)
    Vintage photographs
    Travel
    Artifacts (like a 1929 Model A truck, or a cotton boll)
  • 9. This is an artifact.
  • 10. This, too. (The one I found for sale in a field in Michigan looked more like this one.)
  • 11. My mother is from Georgia. That’s mom, sitting in her mother’s lap, with her three sisters—Dottie, Mimi, and Sissie--standing beside them. Circa 1927
  • 12. This is why I’m not from Georgia. My father was stationed at Robin’s Field, near Macon, during WWII. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That’s where I grew up.
  • 13. I still take my mother to Georgia to visit her sister—in the middle here. My mother’s on the right. We’re on Aunt Sissie’s back porch in Haddock GA.
  • 14. My mom at about age 11. This is how I picture 11-year-old Gladys Cailiff, the narrator, but you can picture her anyway you like.
  • 15. My mother’s graduation pictureMary Helen McCulloughPeabody High School, Milledgeville GA, 1943
  • 16. Mary Flannery O’ConnorPeabody High School 1942, Georgia State College for Women 1945This is her college graduation picture. The high school is on the college campus.
  • 17. This is Flannery O’Connor’s house—the Cline mansion—in Milledgeville.
  • 18. Some of the characters in my novel are inspired by members of my mother’s family. These are two of her aunts: Aileen and Gladys.
  • 19. My great-uncle Elmo Califf was a dead ringer for actor Tyrone Power, Jr., I’m told. He’s pretty cute in any case.
  • 20. This is Tyrone Power, Jr. (He made most of his films in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Check out “Suez” and “Zorro.”)
  • 21. This is my great-grandmother, Daisy Califf. I never knew my grandmother Mattie, who died in childbirth when my mother was eleven years old, but I did see Daisy many times on childhood trips to Georgia. She lived to be 93.
  • 22. My great-grandmother’s married name was Califf. In my novel, I change the spelling to Cailiff. Both names sound the same as at least one pronunciation of the word “Caliph”*
    *which means, as narrator Gladys Cailiff would put it, “the ruler of old-time Baghdad, also known as the Commander of the Faithful and the Slave of God and a pile of other titles and names I won't go into right now.”
  • 23. Welcome to DeepstepKaolin Capital of the World
    A sign like this introduced me to “white dirt,” which became an important component of the plot in my novel:
    The real town of Deepstep inspired the name and some of the details of the fictional town of Threestep in the novel.
  • 24. I toured a kaolin mine (not this one).
  • 25. Interesting facts about kaolin that are not found in my novel
    The word KAOLIN comes from the Chinese “Kao ling,” meaning “high ridge.” The Chinese were the first to use white “china clay” in the making of porcelain.
     
    In the 1700s, the makers of famous Wedgwood china in England imported all of their white clay from Georgia.
     
    Sixty per cent of the world’s supply of kaolin comes from the seven “kaolin” counties in middle Georgia. (That’s a 1994 figure.)
     
    Kaolin is used to make paper, paint, tires, fine china, cosmetics and many other products, including toothpaste.
    There is NO kaolin in Kaopectate, but there used to be.
  • 26. The scene in which Miss Spivey “discovers” kaolin while riding in the Cailiffs’ Model A truck driven by Gladys’s older brother Force(She just asked, “May I drive?”) (See page 83.)
  • 27. This is how I picture Theo Boykin in “The Cailiffs.” Photo of “Boy at Pin Point” by Malcolm & Muriel Bellfrom Drums & Shadows, 1940
  • 28. And this is how I picture Uncle Mack, the camel man.Photo of “Woods worker from Possum Point” by Malcolm & Muriel Bell from Drums & Shadows, 1940
  • 29. Caliph Harun al-Rashid—an important character in The Arabian Nights—transformed Baghdad into a great center of learning in the early 9th century.
  • 30. Theo’s “magic pitcher” from The Book of Ingenious Devices (Kitab al-Hiyal)by the Banu (the sons of) Musa bin Shakir, engineers & inventors who lived in 9th-century Baghdad
  • 31. More Old Books that were useful (The second one is by Lawrence of Arabia.)
    Levy, Reuben. A Baghdad Chronicle. Reprinted by Porcupine Press (Philadelphia, 1977). Originally published by Cambridge University Press, 1929.
    Lawrence, T.E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. New York: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1991. Originally published privately by the George Doran Publishing Company, 1926.
  • 32. Miller, Janet. The Camel-Bells of Baghdad. Boston and NY: The Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1934. In real life, Janet Miller was a traveling physician—a Doctor without Borders—from Nashville, TN. In my novel, she is the one who introduces young Miss Spivey to the Middle East.(I learned from this book when to say “oosh” and when to say “yek” to a camel.)
  • 33. The author, with camel(Two humps? That’s a B, for Bactrian.)
  • 34. Rule #3: BE READY TO DISCOVER WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE LOOKING FOR.Here I am on Nanny Goat Beach, Sapelo Island
  • 35. Sapelo Island mansion owned by R.J. Reynolds, Jr (1934)built on the site of the pre-Civil War plantation mansion
  • 36. Tabby ruins of slave cabins
  • 37. Tabby wall on Sapelo Island
  • 38. A most amazing discovery in the Sapelo Island Visitor’s Center : This notebook belonged to Bilali Mahomet, a Muslim from West Africa who was a slave on Sapelo from 1802 until his death in 1859.
  • 39. Georgia Writers’ Project. Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies Among the Georgia Coastal Negroes. Photos by Muriel and Malcolm Bell. Athens: U. of Georgia Press, 1940. This book contains photos and interviews with descendants of Bilali Mahomet and other residents of the coastal islands circa 1939.
  • 40. Katie Brown is the great-granddaughter of Bilali Mahomet. She was interviewed on Sapelo Island. From Georgia Writers’ Project. Drums and Shadows: Survival Studies Among the Georgia Coastal Negroes. Photos by Muriel and Malcolm Bell. Athens: U. of Georgia Press, 1940. 
  • 41. Historian William McFeely reflects on Sapelo, its history, its people.
  • 42. Cornelia Walker Bailey, Sapelo Island resident and descendant of Bilali, writes about her place in the struggle to save Hog Hammock.
  • 43. Bilali Mahomet was one of many African Muslims enslaved in the Americas.
  • 44. From Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York and London: New York University Press, 1998.
    Bilali Mahomet—the driver, or manager, of Thomas Spalding’s plantation on Sapelo Island—was buried with his Koran.
    On St. Simon’s Island, SalihBilali’s owner reported that he “abstains from spirituous liquors and keeps the various fasts, particularly that of Rhamadan.”
    In Jamaica, Abu Bakr al Siddiq kept his owner’s books in Arabic. He was captured in a rebellion at the age of fifteen.
     
    Mohammed Al ben Said, a Muslim from northern Nigeria (Bornu), was enslaved in the 1830s. He eventually became a teacher in Detroit.
     
    Omar ibn Said ran away from a plantation in South Carolina. When he was captured, he used a piece of coal to cover the walls of his jail cell with petitions, in Arabic, to be released.
     
    LamineKebe, a teacher, was kidnapped while he was on a trip to buy paper for his school and spent 30 years in slavery in the South. He said, “There are good men in America, but all are very ignorant of Africa.”
  • 45. Austin, Allan D. African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. This map shows the homelands of several African Muslims who were enslaved in the Americas, including Bilali Mahomet, from Futa Djallon in present-day Guinea.
  • 46. In my novel, Bilali follows the sea route of this 19th-century pilgrim to Mecca.AhmadibnTuwayr al-Jannah & Norris, H.T., trans. The Pilgrimage of Ahmad, Son of the Little Bird of Paradise: An Account of a 19th-Century Pilgrimage from Mauritania to Mecca. Forest Grove, Oregon: International Scholarly Book Services, 1977.
  • 47. Some resources for readers
    “Why Georgia? Why Baghdad?”—a short essay at www.powells.com (Essays & Interviews)
    www.maryhelenstefaniak.com links to “story behind the novel” & short reading videos
    http://www.indiebound.org/indie-next-list?edition=201009&video=923#youtube2author reading from Margaret & the lion episode (also on YouTube)
    www.baghdadbazaarGA.com site of The Baghdad Bazaar Bulletin, the “character-driven” website recommended by Gladys Cailiff at the end of the novel (Visitors can “Ask Gladys” & get a reply.)
    Join “Friends of the Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia” on Facebook for updates

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