The Southern White ladies have some baggage that they need the help to carry- “The Dry Grass of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew

July 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm 2 comments

“The Dry Grass of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew, Published in 2011


This is another book about a young girl growing up in the South with the help, an African-American woman named Mary, and how Mary’s struggles affect the girl’s life.  I say “another” book because this is a part of a long line of books like this.  And while, it is not that the topic is unimportant, I just wonder where are the African-American authors for this genre?

In the summer of 1954, Jubie, her mother, her siblings and their maid (Mary) head out from their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina for a vacation trip to Florida. Jubie is thirteen, so she is just starting to understand the adult world – coming out of that childhood fog.  She is beginning to view Mary’s life in the segregating South as extremely painful, when before she just thought Mary loved taking care of her.  Jubie is also beginning to understand that her parent’s relationship has plenty of complications, more than just her tough experiences with her drunken, abusive father.

As the family heads further into the South traveling with Mary becomes more and more complicated. She can’t stay in the same motels, she can’t touch the ocean (it is only meant for white people) , she can’t eat in the same restaurants.    While the trip has its rough patches, it becomes tragic when the family is in a car accident and finds themselves stuck in a small town, where Mary is certainly not welcome.  For lack of a better term this reality check teaches Jubie that Mary is truly not family, that Jubie’s parents are not brave or as strong as she always thought,  and that doing the right thing does not always end well for everyone.

As with all of the books in this genre, there is the stoicism of the white Southern women and how appearances are important until they just begin to crumble.  It is an interesting topic – these daughters of the 1950s and 60s Southern women.  They watched their mothers put up with terrible cruelty and in many cases commit extreme acts of cruelty in the segregated South.  I have no idea what that would do to your perception of your mother.  In some ways it would be unforgivable but of course, there are also many excuses afforded these women as well.  Though honestly none of those excuses are truly acceptable.

This book is well-written and insightful but I want more. I want this genre to become more about the African-Americans who experienced this life.  I want to hear from the children whose mothers left early in the morning and returned late at night to raise white children.  These books could exist and I have somehow missed them, but I don’t seem to hear about them.  I am now on a mission to find them – and if anyone has suggestions I would appreciate them.  I understand Southern ladies had feelings but the women who were making their sweet tea did too.  And that is a much more interesting story.

Other reviews to check out: 

From Cold Read

From Josephine’s Readers Advisory

From Mrs. Q Book Addict




Entry filed under: July 2014 reads. Tags: , , , .

The Spring Book Rehash The truth is rarely pure and never simple* – Schroder by Amity Gaige

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Josephine's Readers Advisory  |  July 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you! The upshot of the review (and I need to edit the original to reflect this) is that this is one of the few new (to me) books I’ve read in the past three years that I’d consider buying outright..

    • 2. Emily C  |  July 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      That is always a good sign!


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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