Dry Grass of August by Anna-Jean Mayhew

Seventy-three year old first-time novelist Anna-Jean Mayhew has created a story about a troubled family in troubled times. Set in her hometown of Charlotte, NC, in 1954, it is the tale of a well-to-do white family who finds their lives intersecting with the black community in ways they never anticipated.

The story is told by the character of Jubie, the fourteen-year-old daughter, who has always been very close to Mary, the family’s black housekeeper. Jubie’s mother, Paula, is more concerned with her membership in the Myers Park Country Club and her charge account at Montaldo’s than with her four children. Jubie’s father Bill is a prominent businessman who presents an impeccable front to the community, but drinks too much at home and beats his children. 

The four children all have their own ways of coping with their father’s rages and their mother’s disinterest. Stell Ann, the oldest, finds solace in her recent religious awakening. Puddin, as the youngest daughter is called, handles stress by finding a place to hide. Davey is just a baby, too young to understand much beyond his own needs.

For Jubie, there’s Mary—her source of wisdom, her shoulder to cry on. To her parents, Mary is just a maid, but Jubie understands and loves her. It takes a sudden tragedy to open the parents’ eyes and make them see the important things they have overlooked.

I was also born and raised in Charlotte, and this is the first time I have ever read a novel based in the “Queen City.” Though my childhood came somewhat later than the time period described by Mayhew, I can relate to many of the details of segregation and discrimination she describes. It was mesmerizing for me to revisit in fiction the places I once knew so well—Myers Park, Queens Road, Kings Drive, Selwyn Avenue, McDowell Street.

Mayhew’s characters are realistic and believable. We feel with Jubie the awakening romantic feelings of a young teen, her dawning awareness of a bigger world outside her immediate circle. We see Jubie growing from a child into a woman, coming to the painful realization that sometimes she knows more than her parents do, and finding the courage to act upon her beliefs.

Though our circumstances may be different, we can all relate in some way to Jubie’s story, as we continue along on the journey called “growing up.”

Anna Jean Mayhew along with several other local authors will be at North Regional Library on September, 15th, please visit our website for more details.

 Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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4 Responses to “Dry Grass of August by Anna-Jean Mayhew”

  1. A. J. Mayhew Says:

    Thank you for your wonderful review of my novel, which is especially gratifying to me in that it came from another Charlottean. I so look forward to the event at North Regional Library on Sunday, September 15, 2pm!

  2. Melanie B. Says:

    I just read this book! Very, very good read!!

  3. Sharon S. Says:

    You are so welcome! I really enjoyed your book. I am working at North Regional tomorrow during the author event, so I hope I will have a chance to come by and meet you!

  4. Sharon S. Says:

    Oops, I meant to say that I am working at North Regional on Sunday during the author event. Hope to meet you then!

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