This book by first-time novelist, Anna Jean Mayhew, had a hold on me that wouldn’t let go. The Dry Grass of August shares similarities with the knock-out best seller The Help by Kathryn Stockett which is a film in production and scheduled to be released in August. It also tells a story of the south in the 1950′s and 1960′s when black family helpers were essential to running homes and raising children.
Jubie, a thirteen year old girl from North Carolina, narrates a tragic story of racism that changes her world with it’s personal and horrific impact. Her mother, siblings and black maid, Mary, are heading to visit an uncle in Florida. Signs of racism are experienced by Mary which are upsetting for Jubie, who loves Mary and is ashamed that she must endure scorn and primitive conditions in motels and at rest stops. On the return trip a tragedy occurs that forever changes the family.
The history of race relations in the south is painful to experience through Mayhew’s book. As a young teen during the 60′s I remember viewing some of the same unfair conditions on a trip through the south to visit an aunt and uncle in Florida. The truth of the hate exhibited toward blacks in the south during that time is a dark blot in my memory.