Albert V. Baez &
Joan Baez, Sr.
A Year in Baghdad.
Santa Barbara: John Daniel & Company, 1988.
Forward by Mimi Fariņa.
Drawings by Joan Baez.

This book is a fascinating account of the Baez family's gruelling stay in Baghdad during the 1951-1952 school year. Professor Baez had been invited by Unesco to build physics laboratories and teach pyhsics for year at the University of Baghdad, and the entire family moved there for a year. Pauline was twelve at the time, Joan was ten, and Mimi was six. Mimi doesn't have a big "role" in the book because she was so young at the time, but there are nevertheless some interesting insights to be found. For instance, we learn that she spoke Arabic with a perfect accent even before she knew how to read or write English (this reminded me of a comment that Joan made in her autobiography that Mimi "learned to dance almost before she learned to walk").

In the last chapter, Albert reflects on the long-term influence of their year in Baghdad and suggests that the family's exposure to the squalor, poverty, and disgraceful status of women in Iraq may have played a role in the sense of social justice that the Baezes showed in later years through Joan's political activism and Mimi's founding of Bread & Roses. This is a fun, informative, and fascinating book, a rare glimpse into the early, unknown years of a remarkable family in American history.

There are also some beautiful family photos, and dozens of drawings Joan made at the time. These drawings are surprisingly good for a ten-year-old--realistic, well-proportioned, and finished-looking. She could have had a career in illustration if she hadn't taken up singing! There is also a blurb on the back cover written by Pauline, making this book a joint project by the whole family.

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