Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

Like many people, I consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be one of my all time favorite books, and one huge reason is Scout Finch. There's something about the point of view of a child that shows up subjects like racism and hate for the horrors they truly are.  Adults too often learn turn a blind eye.  Children generally do not.

Whether debut author Anna Jean Mayhew was consciously influenced by Harper Lee's classic or not, The Dry Grass of August brought Mockingbird to mind for me.  Jubie Watts is 13, on a road trip with her mother, siblings and Mary, their African-American maid through the South of the late 1950's.  Mary is like a mother to Jubie, but she's less than human to far too many people they encounter.   As tragic events unfold, Jubie is forced to face the ugly realities of her world and must choose how to respond.

The genuine quality of Jubie's adolescent voice shines through Mayhew's work.   Her siblings are also very genuine, as are her parents, who are flawed, complex individuals.  Dry Grass of August is a coming of age novel, as well as a look at the complex relations between black and white in the civil-rights era South.  It's not a perfect book, but it held my attention, and left me thinking.

If you enjoyed The Help,  you will find similarities here, though The Help was a lighter book overall.  You might also try The Secret Life of Bees for an African-American perspective on the topic and period.

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