“The Dry Grass of August” Tells Story of Charlotte’s 1950s Past

“The Dry Grass Of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew

Reviewed by Jessica Stafford

Charlotte Area News Book Editor

“The Dry Grass of August” takes us back to a time in our very own Charlotte and explores the complicated relationship between blacks and whites on the eve of Brown vs. Board of Education. It is an honest look at the feelings of people involved from all perspectives.

Charlotte author Anna Jean Mayhew makes her debut into literature with this heart wrenching story. It was long journey to create this book, but for this reader it was worth the wait. Her use of dramatic irony tears at the heart as the reader makes their way into the inevitable. Her protagonist, 13 year old June, finds herself in a whirlwind of social change. While her family seems to be happy and successful, the real heart and rock of the family is in their maid Mary.

The story is full of Charlotte references from Queens Road West to Daddy Grace. Mayhew compiled a large amount of research to accurately convey the time period and culture of the story. Her research stretched from the Carolina Room at the main branch of the Charlotte Public Library (a resource that I can personally recommend as being wonderful) all the way to Washington, DC to see an exhibit on Brown vs. Board of education. Her attention to accuracy does not go unnoticed; as you read the 1950s seems to fill your mind in culture and setting. It is one of those books that you get so engrossed in that the summer setting of the story makes you forget that we are actually in the middle of winter.

She created characters that are so vivid that they are living lives that make the readers question what their own response would be in the face of social injustice – if they would have the same audacity or naivety. Even cameo characters have a realism to them that goes to the old saying “there are no small roles.”

“Delta Magazine” recently named “The Dry Grass of August” as one of the top 5 books of 2011 and the book just had its 8th printing. If you have not read this book yet it is a must! Then you will be ready for the next book she is currently working on, “Tomorrow’s Bread.”

The Dry Grass of August (Kensington Books; $15.00; April 2011)