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The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew Review

Title: The Dry Grass of August

Author: Anna Jean Mayhew

First published April 1, 2011

289 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780758254092 (ISBN10: 0758254091)

Rating: 3.9


Anna Jean Mayhew’s debut novel, The Dry Grass of August, offers an unflinching portrayal of the struggles of the American South. Jubie Watts, a bright and curious thirteen-year-old, embarks on a family vacation to Florida in the summer of 1954.

Along with her siblings, mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and the racial tensions that build as they journey further south. But when tragedy strikes, Jubie must confront her parents’ shortcomings and decide where her own convictions lie.

Through heartbreak and hope, The Dry Grass of August is a testament to the love and courage that can transform us from wounded to indomitable.

About the Author

Anna Jean Mayhew, also known as A.J., is an award-winning author from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her debut novel, The Dry Grass of August, was recognized with the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

A.J. has also served as a writer-in-residence at the Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France, and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Drawing on her personal experiences growing up in the segregated South, A.J.’s writing is infused with vivid memories of her past.

Though she frequently travels to Europe with her Swiss husband, A.J. has always called North Carolina home. She currently resides in a small town in the North Carolina Piedmont with her husband and their French-speaking feline companion.

As a mother and grandmother, A.J.’s writing often explores themes of family, community, and the human experience.

Editoral Review

Anna Jean Mayhew’s debut novel, The Dry Grass of August, is a heart-wrenching tale of racial injustice set in the South during the Jim Crow era. Published on April 1, 2011, the novel follows a young white girl named Jubie Watts, who embarks on a road trip with her family’s black maid, Mary Luther.

Through her vivid descriptions and poignant storytelling, Mayhew transports readers to the segregated South of the 1950s. The book tackles themes of race, family, and identity, offering a grim reminder of the countless lives that were ruined by racism and bigotry.

As the story unfolds, Jubie and Mary’s journey takes a dangerous turn when they find themselves in the midst of a racially charged incident that shakes them to their core. The novel’s powerful characterization and richly atmospheric prose make it a gripping read from start to finish.

Mayhew’s writing is both lyric and raw, pulling readers into a world of tangled emotions, where even the smallest moments feel profound. The characters’ emotional journeys are captured in exquisite detail, highlighting the complexities of their relationships and the seismic shifts in their lives.

At the heart of the novel is Jubie, a young girl who struggles to make sense of the world around her. Her innocence and vulnerability serve as a stark juxtaposition to the harsh realities of the era, making her an empathetic narrator and a compelling protagonist.

The novel’s pacing is steady and deliberate, building up to a climactic moment that leaves readers gasping for breath. Mayhew’s ability to weave intricate plot threads together is astonishing, as she masterfully balances a diverse cast of characters and their individual subplots.

While the book’s major strength lies in its character development and emotional depth, some may feel that the plot’s resolution is somewhat predictable. However, Mayhew’s lyrical prose and vivid setting more than make up for any minor flaws.

Overall, The Dry Grass of August is a powerful and important book that explores the impact of racism on individuals and society at large. Its message is even more relevant today, as we continue to grapple with rampant discrimination and social injustice.

This book is an absolute must-read for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the legacy of racism in America. Rating: 4.5/5

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