Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Released: 2011
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5


The Dry Grass of August is a heartfelt story about segregation and racial injustices in the South during the 1950’s. A thirteen-year-old June “Jubie” Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina with her mother, three siblings and black maid for a family vacation in Florida. While on their road trip, their maid Mary is not allowed in certain restaurants, hotel accommodations become more difficult, despite Jubie’s mother trying to keep Mary with the family. In many ways Jubie’s family is ahead of the times, and very accepting of Mary. They allow her to use their toilet, shower and try to include her as much as possible. She is more than just the help, she’s a member of the family. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has always been there. She’s always been around for the cooking and cleaning, and to run interference when her father’s rage has peaked. On their trip South, they drive though some of the the most violent pro-segregation states. As Jubie notices the segregation signs, and anti-equality slogans, she never would have guessed how unfair life could be. The family learns first-hand that they’re in the minority on their equal treatment of their maid. On their way back from Florida, the family has a minor car accident with consequences far greater than could be expected. No one could have predicted the shocking conclusion of their vacation, the family is forever changed and heartbroken.


The Dry Grass of August is a novel rich in atmosphere, and well developed characters. Mayhew carefully researched, and weaved an emotional, heartbreaking and powerful read. Readers are taken back to a time and place when African Americans were considered second-class citizens. This is not just another book about segregation, this novel stands on its own and readers will appreciate the original characters and plot. As Jubie’s world begins to unravel, she must confront her parents, risk the wrath of her father and standup for her own convictions. While segregation is a key component of this novel, Jubie’s parents marriage is strained, and this has a great impact on her. Her father’s alcoholism has Jubie relived to be spending time away from him.

Jubie narrates the story, alternating chapters with present-day and defining moments in her childhood. The alternating chapters really gives insight into Jubie’s world. She’s thirteen years old, and still very innocent. Although, not so innocent that she is not aware of her surroundings. Mayhew offers a broader and deeper examination of family dynamics, and class differences during this time in history.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up. I had read reviews comparing it to “The Help” and honestly, they’re two very different, equally great, works of fiction. They both deal with segregation, but very different ways. I highly recommend this one!


  1. Sounds like a intriguing read.

  2. Sounds great. I loved The Help and I think I would enjoy this one as well!

  3. I got a chance to hear Mayhew speak a couple of years ago, and was really excited to hear her. I also have this book, and need to take the time to read it. It does sound like a really interesting look at segregation, and like something that I could learn a lot from. Your review today was wonderful, and I enjoyed reading it. Now I just need to make some time for the book!

  4. I've been lucky enough to meet AJ a couple of times and I have to tell you, she's a real sweetheart. I'd love for her book to get more buzz, so I guess I should get on the stick and read it. A friend of mine raves over it.

  5. It's always strange to me when books get compared to really popular books even if they really don't have much in common except for a broad subject matter:) Sounds like this book stands brilliantly on it's own without the comparison!

  6. Awww, this sounds like a really sweet historical read! Segregation has always been a topic that I've been completely against (because it's always so much more fun when everyone can hang out together!), so stories that focus on it are always intriguing to read. :) And the alternating sort of narrative sounds pretty cool too!

    Awesome review, Mrs. Q! :)

  7. This one must be interesting to read form the eyes of a 13 year old not marred by racism. Her awakening to the world and how nasty people can be to people and things that aren't familiar or look like them must have been heartbreaking and emotional for her. Sounds like a fascinating story but kind of heavy and emotional.

  8. This sounds delightful. i love a tale that goes back and forth, creating real character depth. Thanks for sharing your lovely review.

  9. I saw this in my google reader the other day and tried to comment but it wasn't here...! ;) This definitely sounds like a good read.

    1. I posted the wrong date! So, I deleted it.

  10. Wow, this definitely sounds interesting and I hadn't heard of it at all before. I've been curious about The Help though, but it's good to know they're completely different, even if dealing with the same kind of issue. I'm curious! So glad you enjoyed and would recommend it. :) Great review!

  11. This sounds interesting. I like that segregation is a plot element, but not the only element. It's nice to have more depth to an issues-type book.

  12. Glad to hear it's different from The Help. It sounds fantastic, and I love the cover!

  13. I seriously think I may have to drop my subscription to your blog. I just subscribed this week and already my TBR has grown by 5 books. At this rate, I'm going to be buried by books! Thanks for the great reviews.....I think! ;)

  14. I really loved this book, and I always enjoy first books by new authors. Just because it's a first book doesn't mean it isn't going to be good, and this one proves it. Much research went into the writing of The Dry Grass of August. I highly recommend it.

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