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The Dry Grass of August

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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  10,674 ratings  ·  1,405 reviews
In a personal, powerful debut, Mayhew explores the explosive tensions of the South in the mid-1950s through the prism of a young girl's friendship with her black maid and the currents of violence, infidelity, and corruption that run beneath the polite surface of her family's life.
Paperback, 289 pages
Published 2011 by Kensington Books
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Jennifer
I almost couldn't put down this novel set in the segregated South in the early 1950s--Mayhew's first--and wouldn't have if it weren't for that pesky thing called a job.

The story of the summer that 13-year-old June "Jubie" Watts comes of age is a breathtaking glimpse into the relationship between a black maid and her white charges. Like the best-selling The Help, Mayhew breaks new ground exploring the dynamics of this relationship.

When an unspeakably tragic event occurs, Jubie is forced to foll
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Jennifer Franz
This book was so good!! The main character is Jubie, a 13 year old girl living in Charlotte, North Carolina in the late 1950s. Two stories are told: one is Jubie's trip down South with her, mother, her siblings and their black maid Mary. The other story is back story, to learn more about their family. Secrets are revealed in the back story that make you understand things happening on the trip much better. Plus, the deep racism of 1950s Florida and Georgia heighten the tension to it's inevitable ...more
Jal
I thought this was one of the worst books I have ever read. I can appreciate the attempt the author took on, but I feel it was sub standard to be quite blunt. For me, it was like a soap opera. First, this story has been told over and over, and it has been told much better than this one. So, here you go: it has a dysfunctional family, child abuse, childhood emotional neglect, attempted sexual abuse of a house maid, criminal business practices, marital infidelity, substance abuse, racism, racial i ...more
Teresa
3 and 1/2 stars (I think I'm giving out more 3 and 1/2 stars for what are basically 3-star books, if only to make sure review-readers know that I did like a 3-star book.)

I bought this book while I was on vacation in North Carolina last week, as I like to go into the local independents and see what is regionally of interest. This was recommended to me by the owner, who said it was well-written, after she asked me what I liked to read. (Literary fiction was my answer.)

Not only is it well-written,
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Carrie Enders
I felt this book was a solid three-star read, and it was certainly a quick read. I love the title and the imagery it conjures up. It is beautifully written; and I think if Mayhew's book had come out prior to The Help, I might have given it a higher rating. The topics are very similar in the two books, however, I have to say I did not feel a huge connection between any of the characters in Dry Grass of August.

None of them seem to really delve into anything below the surface. The main character s
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Emily
I picked this up because of the cover. I know the rule is don't judge a book by its cover, but I do. Not always, I mean if it sounds good but has a stupid cover whatever, but I love good looking books. Also titles. I love me a good title. This book, has both of those things, plus, it happens to be a very well written novel. It reminded me a little bit of The Secret Life of Bees mixed with The Help and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Those are all stories that I liked, and I enjoyed this ...more
Lisa
If you read and enjoyed "The Help", you must read this book! It's part coming of age story about Jubie Watts, a 13 year old North Carolinian and part story about Southerners (white and black) during the early days of civil right movement. Like "The Help"'s Mae Moebly, Jubie's mother, Pauly, is distant, leaving her to find love and acceptance from the family's "girl", Mary, just as Mae Moebly found love and acceptance from the family maid, Aibileene.

Things are not right in the Watts household. Ju
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Book Concierge
Mayhew’s debut novel is a story of racism in the 1950’s South, a coming-of-age novel, and a look at a family falling apart.

Jubie (June Bentley Watts) is our 13-year-old narrator, growing up in an upper-middle-class family in Charlotte NC with her three siblings. Her life, to this point, is centered on family and school; she is aware of change in the world, yet still somewhat sheltered by her age and the adults around her. But a family vacation to visit her Uncle Taylor in Pensacola will open he
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Kathy
There are novels that should be included in a collection of Southern literature before and during the struggles of the African American to gain basic civil rights in our country, and this novel should be a part of that collection. Each novel that I value as a part of my collection tells a different and important part of that story. To Kill a Mockingbird, Four Spirits, and The Help are three others that I value. As in The Help, this novel focuses on the hard life of being a domestic in the white ...more
Dem


The dry grass of August in a really interesting and engaging novel and while a lot of people seem to be comparing it in one way or another to The Help, I am not going to do this as I feel this book needs to be read and enjoyed in its own right. I bought the paperback edition and I love the cover and the quality of this publication and this is is the reason I still love my physical books!

The Dry Grass of August takes place in 1954 in Charlotte, North Carolina and tells the story of 13 year old Ju
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Lauren
Review by Sarah:


The Dry Grass of August is Anna Jean Mayhew's debut novel about 1950s southern racism seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year old white girl.

When thirteen-year old Jubie Watts embarks on a road trip with her mother, siblings, and the family's black maid named Mary, Jubie witnesses in full effect how racism becomes more prevalent driving from North Carolina to Florida. When tragedy befalls Mary, Jubie is confronted with the rudest awakening to just how horrible and evil the worl
...more
Augusta Scattergood
I was sent an ARC of this one by the publisher. Yesterday I started thumbing through. 3 hours later, I was still reading, mesmerized.
An authentic look at the South of the 50s, the novel is a truly beautiful, page-turner of a story. The young narrator's voice is perfect, not so innocent that the events around her are missed. But so much of what happened in that part of the country (my home, FYI) was just plain hard to figure out for anyone. What at first glance might seem like another "Help" kno
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Val Wilkerson
Written about a family road trip taken in early 1950's, kids crammed in back, along with
the colored girl hired to help with the kids, being turned away from motels because they didn't allow "colored". You love the characters and are taken a step back in time.
Marfita
Aug 09, 2012 Marfita rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: tbg
Any complaints about this may relate to all popular fiction. Most of the complaints start with the words "Why on earth ..." I suppose the point of this book is the many degrees/forms of racism at a turning point in US history, after Brown v. Board of Education. Jubie and her family (minus the father but plus the saintly black maid, Mary) travel from Charlotte, NC to the Florida panhandle to visit Uncle Taylor. We see the indignities of separate and definitely unequal bathrooms, restaurants, and ...more
Amy
Apr 18, 2011 Amy added it
Wow, this was a fantastic debut novel by Anna Jean Mayhew. It has been compared to The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. To be honest, I loved The Help but was completely ambivalent about the Secret Life of Bees. I think that happens to me when there is so much hype about a book that my expectations are too high and are never met. But, I digress. The Dry Grass of August is a true coming of age story about 13 year old Jubie Watts whose life is turned upside down by a tragic event that takes place ...more
Alena
Jan 24, 2012 Alena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alena by: Bound Together
3.5 stars. Since I love historical fiction and books told from a young narrator's perspective, this book was right up my alley. Jubie is 13 in the summer of 1954, a middle child whose body is rapidly maturing while emotionally she still feels like a little girl. On the surface, her family seems ideal with four children, a successful father, and a beautiful stay-at-home mom. But, of course, under the surface things are not well. The only person who really pays positive attention to Jubie is the f ...more
Sophia Musgrave
What a wonderful book. I loved that it was about the civil rights, although told from the perspective of a young teenage white girl, it had such a gritty feel and brought up several interesting points. No one has ever thought about how the children in the care of a colored nanny feel that I have read a book about. No one talks about the love, the bond these servants formed with the youngest members of the household and I loved that it treated such a sad and hard time of our history with such apl ...more
Ellen Black
The Dry Grass of August is Anna Jean Mayhew's first book and it reminded me a lot of the book, The Secret Life of Bees. Dry Grass is well-written, though not as lyrical as Secret Life. However, both books provide a front-row viewing of how white people treated black people in the late '50s/early '60s.

Even though Secret Life described a terrible time in American history, because the majority of the main characters were people with incredible souls and personalities, it was an easier book to read
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Pat F.
A Future Classic

The Dry Grass of August tells the deceptively simple story of Jubie, a privileged white teen whose eyes are beginning to open to the end-products of 1950s racism. Although parallels might be drawn between this novel and, say, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Dry Grass of August offers broader and deeper examinations of class differences and family dynamics, which enrich the story considerably.

The author has completely captured the language of the time and created a sense of place so re
...more
Cindy
I loved young Jubie; her honor, her courage, her fearless love for Mary. Yes, I enjoyed the character of Jubie! Her mother, not so much; her father, not at all; her older sister; didn't like her so much either!

So the book is centered around life in the Carolina's during the 50's and how one young girl survived. It also paints a picture of life for a (white) wife and family during this time and it's not all 'Leave it to Beaver'! I've heard others compare it to "The Help". Maybe a little, but I b
...more
Lynn Shurden
I happened upon this author and her book in our local library and I'm so glad that I did. A novel of coming of age, family and race relations in the South. It could have been the story of many families. Great read and I look forward to more from this talented author.
thewanderingjew
The story begins in 1954. The Watts are a fairly comfortable and well respected family living in Charlotte, North Carolina. William Watts stays behind as his wife, Paula, his children Jubie, Stell, Puddin, Davey and the maid, Mary, leave in their Packard and drive off for a vacation at the home of Paula’s brother. As they travel south, 14 year old Jubie (June Watts), becomes more and more aware that the maid, Mary Luther, is not welcome in many places, and actually, although they professed to ha ...more
Mendy-Sue
This book is about racism in the 1950s from the perspective of a 13 year caucasian girl named Jubie who starts to question the racism around her during this time.

Quick read but definitely a heartwrenching tear jerker. I would definitely recommend this book.
Peggy
Wow, what a great read. Jubie, the narrator, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, can see the changes coming from "Brown vs. Board of Education, and it doesn't bother her a bit. Mary, the family's black maid is part of the family. The rest of the family treats Mary very well. In some ways, the family is ahead of the times in race relations.

When the family goes on vacation and takes Mary with them, and travel farther south, the find Mary is still a person non grata to the white folks, who won
...more
Sjcapanna
This is the story of 13-year-old June "Jubie" Watts, who travels with her family from North Carolina to Florida in August 1954. Accompanying the family is their black housekeeper Mary, to whom Jubie feels closer than any of her actual family members. Naturally, as the family travels further south, they encounter more and more appalling attitudes and displays of racism, and eventually tragedy strikes.

Let me say that this author did an excellent job of capturing the mind of a 13-year-old girl. He
...more
Amy
On a hot day in August in 1954, Jubie leaves her town of Charlotte, North Carolina to head to Florida on a vacation with her mother, three siblings, and their African American maid named Mary. For all of Jubie’s life, Mary has been essential to their family and their household. Mary has been there when her alcoholic father and neglectful mother have not been and Jubie knows that Mary will always be around to love and care for her.

As the family heads further south on their trip to Florida, they s
...more
Nancy Narma
“A Riveting, Heart-Wrenching Tale You Won’t Forget”

From the very first page, we are introduced to Miss June Bentley Watts; affectionately known as “Jubie”, an “older than her years” thirteen year old who is maturing through the early 1950’s with little to no help from her dysfunctional family. The Watts family unit includes her quick-tempered, abusive Father; Bill, her neglectful, demanding Mother; Paula and three siblings; older Sister, “Stell”, younger Sister, Carolina, better known as “Puddin
...more
Cheri Micheletti
First--I listened to the audio version, and I thought the narrator was stellar. I think sometimes that can make a huge difference.

When I'm undecided about reading a book, I go straight to the panning reviews--for some reason that I haven't bothered to analyze, these are often more helpful (maybe it's just that I'm slightly cynical myself). The first one-star that I read identified the likely audience, and really nailed me, personally--grew up in the fifties in Missouri, clearly remember the yea
...more
Brittney
It's the 1950's in Charlotte, NC and 13 year old Jubie and her family (minus her father and plus their black maid Mary) are on their way to Florida for a family vacation. On their way, Jubie takes note of increase in segregation and hostilities towards Mary, whom Jubie adores. The trip does not end well, as manifested in the first couple of chapters, the rest of the book being a flash back of incidences that occur to their family down in Florida and on their way back home.

I did not like this bo
...more
Etcetorize
Jul 12, 2012 Etcetorize rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
I could not put this book down. I LOVED it! If you liked "The Help" you'll love this book too.

It's beautifully written and every character and every piece of dialogue draws you further into the past. The segregated south of the 1950's was a confusing time for young people who simply saw people for who they were, not for what colour their skin was. This story is beautifully told through the eyes of young teenage Jubie. Over the course of a summer her life changes in ways unimaginable. She goes f
...more
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Was this book better than "The Help"? 8 108 Jan 02, 2015 01:48PM  
What Did I Miss? 6 68 Mar 20, 2014 08:37PM  
Audiobooks: Audiobook Giveaway 6 83 Feb 27, 2012 12:20PM  
Southern Lit Lovers: Audiobook Giveaway 1 10 Feb 24, 2012 02:07PM  
Southern Lit Lovers: The Dry Grass of August (Warning: Spoilers Possible!) 60 68 Sep 30, 2011 07:33PM  
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Anna Jean (A.J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the 2011 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and was an Okra Pick of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. Delta Magazine of Mississippi included the book as one of the top five novels of 2011. A Blackstone Audio book came out in December, and the novel is being translated into French and Italian for release in 2013. La ...more
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