In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation and what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood and for the woman who means the world to her.
On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.
Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence.
Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us from child to adult, wounded to indomitable.
Some of the recent comments posted about The Dry Grass of August. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.
Anna Jean Mayhew Answers Questions About The Dry Grass of August
I've had a positive response from the majority of readers, especially Southerners. The book was an Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance; I've been invited to speak at the Southern Voices conference in February,... - Carolina
Do you think Jubie's parents are racist?
I think probably both Bill and Paula were raised as products of their environment where whites thought themselves to be completely superior to blacks. I think as Paula may have had more personal interactions with Mary and others, she could see the... - sylviaj
Do you think Stell is partially responsible for Mary's death?
I do think that Stell is partially responsible but at 16 I don't believe that she understood the possible remifications of their actions. After all, she had Paula as her role model! Had Paula been more sensitive or less selfish, Mary wouldn't have... - Terry R
Food in the Novel
I moved to Georgia from California and life definitely revolves around food here! I also come from a Jewish culture which also centers on food. But in California food was not the focus of everything like it is here in Georgia. - bettyt
How does someone become racist?
I think terrio's comment is interesting; how could you not be racist when everything around you tells you that Negroes were inferior, less than second-class citizens, to be treated as non-humans. Racist behavior also empowers the racist to be... - carolj
If you were Paula, would you have gone to Mary's funeral?
I absolutely would have gone to the funeral. I believe even during that time that people wouldn't have objected to Paula going to the funeral of the woman who took care of her children and she even mentioned to Jubie that she should have done more... - sylviaj
I was so struck by Jeann's words. I too, used to not say anything when something prejudicial was said, having been the brunt of it at one time in my youth. As an adult I am much wiser, and tho I believe that all are allowed to have their own... - bethp
Overall, what do you think of The Dry Grass of August?
I enjoy hearing from people in other parts of the country (outside the South), because I believe racism is a national thing, not just southern (certainly worst in the South, but not restricted to geographical boundaries). I, too, participated... - Carolina
I don't have a signed copy, I must have gotten a late copy. I think I was one of the last people to get the book. - sylviaj
I was satisfied with the ending. I was afraid that Paula would stay with her husband, which would be a kind of acceptance of his racism and abuse. It was more satisfying to see her leave him. I wish he had ended up in jail, though. - gwendolyndawson
What drives Stamos to suicide?
Yes, I pretty much agree with you...I think of Stamos as a truly good man who could not live with his guilt (perhaps more guilt than humiliation). And I wonder if suicides are ever thinking of their families; I doubt it. I cannot... - Carolina
What is the significance of the title?
I think, Sarah, your analysis of the powder kegs of racial discrimination about to burn is very insightful. Hopefully, the Isaiah reference is related to the roots of racial discrimination decaying for nothing could be more rejecting of the law of... - ritah
Which character in the novel do you identify with most?
I agree with Jeann. I identified the most with Mary, she was really the rock of the family and really the only person who treated Jubie as a beloved child. She was really the best character in the book, she stood for everything that a person... - sylviaj
Which character undergoes the most change?
I agree that Paula changed the most. She went from being self-absorbed and passive to taking charge of her children and her life. Mary's death forced Paula to start caring for her children on a day-to-day basis and to start doing her own housework.... - terrio
Mayhew keeps the story taut, thoughtful, and complex, elevating it from the throng of coming-of-age books.
Because the novel is totally true to Jubie's point of view, it generates gripping drama as we watch her reach beyond authority to question law and order.
Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
A beautiful book that fans of The Help will enjoy.
Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly's Child
A beautifully written and important novel. Set in the 1950s South, it deals with race relations in an original, powerful way. It's also a great story about complicated family relationships, told with humor, delicacy, and penetrating insight. I wish I had written this book.
Lee Smith, author of Last Girls and Fair and Tender Ladies
Written with unusual charm, wonderful dialogue, and a deeply felt sense of time and place, The Dry Grass of August is a book for adults and young people both a beautifully written literary novel that is a real page-turner, I have to add. Fast, suspenseful, and meaningful. I read this book straight through.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Rebecca R Some People May Like It I found myself skimming this book in a lot of places. In fact, I was really torn about the difference between a 3 and a 4 for a rating. For me, it was a clear cut 3, and yet I feel it could appeal to a large segment of other women. Something... Read More
Rated of 5
by Darlene Mour The Dry Grass of August This book is very relevant to my growing up in the 50's. Most of our families could not afford maids or servants, but living in a town where negros had to be off the streets at night . Anna Mayhew artfully mades the characters come alive. Jubie's... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jeanne Truth This novel could have been a true story of a family, so accurate in it's depiction of segregation and the dysfunction of families trying to control lives and profits.
It is a well written reflection of the 1950's south; ugly prejudices woven... Read More
Rated of 5
by Karenr A gem! Other readers compared this to the Help so I crossed my fingers that it could meet my expectations as I dove into reading it. It absolutely did and was engaging through the last page. I felt I was right there along side and sharing the emotions of... Read More
Rated of 5
by jknapp The Dry Grass of August There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. I liked that the story was told from the perspective of a 13 year old girl rather than the adult characters in the story. I think that Jubie was a very bright,stubborn young lady who loved her... Read More
Rated of 5
by Beth A must read I knew within 5 or 6 pages that I was going to love this book. If I had the time, I would have read it non-stop. For those who loved The Help, the subject matter is similar, race relations and the relationships that were formed between the... Read More
The true story of an extraordinary friendship between a brilliant mathematician and an uneducated, illiterate African American maid from Alabama. Jenniemae & James is an inspiring, heartwarming memoir about friendship and love across the racial barrier.
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