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The Dry Grass of August

The Dry Grass of August

By Anna Jean Mayhew Publisher: Kensington BooksISBN: 978-1-4967-4272-8Genre: Literary Fiction Price: $16.95
Available from: Kensington Books Amazon

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.

Anna Jean "A. J." Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the book award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and has been translated into seven languages. She was a writer in residence for a month at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France.
A. J.’s second novel, Tomorrow's Bread, is about the destruction of inner city neighborhoods in urban renewal programs that swept across the country, beginning in the 1950s and continuing today. As a native Charlottean, A. J. witnessed the demolition of the Brooklyn community in Second Ward, and her feelings about that travesty prompted the writing of Tomorrow's Bread. The novel was selected for the TRIO program, a traveling exhibit of art, music, and literature that celebrates the inspirational power of great storytelling. Learn more about her here.


A girl comes of age in the tumultuous 1950s South in Mayhew’s strong debut. When 13-year-old Jubie Watts goes on a Florida vacation with her family in 1954, Mary, the family’s black maid who’s closer to Jubie than her own mother, comes along, and though the family lives in North Carolina, Jubie notices the changing way Mary’s received the further south they travel. After a tragedy befalls the family, Jubie’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of racism and the importance for standing up for one’s beliefs—though this does little to help her when her father’s failures in business and marriage lead to the family falling apart. In Jubie, Mayhew gives readers a compelling and insightful protagonist, balancing Jubie’s adolescence with a racially charged plot and other developments that are beyond her years. Despite a crush of perhaps unwarranted late-book suffering, Mayhew keeps the story taut, thoughtful, and complex, elevating it from the throng of coming-of-age books.

Publisher's Weekly

Beautifully written, with complex characters, an urgent plot, and an ending so shocking and real it had me in tears.

–Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling

A beautiful book that fans of The Help will enjoy.

–Karen White, New York Times bestselling author