The Dry Grass of August
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, from wounded to indomitable.
Praise For The Dry Grass of August…
"Mayhew keeps the story taut, thoughtful and complex, elevating it from the throng of coming-of-age books." --Publishers Weekly
"A must-read for fans of The Help." --Woman's World
"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." --Lee Smith, author of Last Girls and Fair and Tender Ladies
"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." --Booklist
"A masterful work of blending time and place." --The Charlotte Observer
"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." -- Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly's Child
"Anna Jean Mayhew has a true ear for Southern speech. . .The Dry Grass of August is a carefully researched, beautifully written, quietly told tale of love and despair and a look backward at the way it was back then in the South." --The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina)
"Deeply felt, lasting relationships formed in the mid-20th century South between white families and the African-American women who took care of them. In The Dry Grass of August, Mayhew explores the love and conflicting loyalties in one such extended family, adult and child, black and white. She does so with honesty and sympathy, intimate knowledge and valuable perspective, as well as beautiful writing. This is an important story about the Southern experience and the women who helped to form the American generation now at the peak of its powers." --Peggy Payne, author of Sister India
"Once you've experienced The Dry Grass of August, you'll swiftly see that Anna Jean Mayhew's debut novel deserves all the early praise it's getting. . .the power, bravery and beauty of Mayhew's narrative is beyond contestation and well-deserving of a wide readership." --BookPage
"An extraordinary, absorbing novel." --Historical Novel Reviews
Kensington, 9780758254092, 352pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2011
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
What do you think about Paula’s decision to take Mary on the trip, given the antipathy in the deep south post Brown v. Board?
Why does Puddin so often try to hide or run away? What does her behavior say about the family?
Why didn’t Paula try to stop Bill from beating Jubie?
Is Uncle Taylor a racist?
Why did the clown at Joyland by the Sea give Jubie a rose?
If you’d been Paula (or Bill) what would you have done when Cordelia failed to appear for dinner? How could they have handled that differently?
Why does Paula take Bill back after his affair with her brother’s wife?
Did Bill and Paula act responsibly as parents when they allowed Jubie and Stell to go with Mary to the Daddy Grace parade in Charlotte? The tent meeting in Claxton?
Why didn’t Paula punish Jubie for stealing the Packard to go to Mary’s Funeral?
What drove Stamos to suicide?
Which major character changes the most? The least?
Which character in the book did you identify with the most? The least?
If you could interview Jubie, what would you ask her? What about Mary? Paula? Bill? Stell?
If Bill died at the end of the book, what would his obituary say if Paula wrote it? If Stell wrote it? If Jubie wrote it?
Given that there’s little hope for Jubie and Leesum to be friends in 1954, what would it be like for them if they met again today?