The Dry Grass Of August

By A.J. Mayhew
Published April 1, 2011

In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation and what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood and for the woman who means the world to her.

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.

Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence.

Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us from child to adult, wounded to indomitable.

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Awards, Foreign Printings, Residencies

Anna Jean (A. J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August—now in its twelfth printing—won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. A Blackstone Audio book was followed by French, Italian, Turkish, Polish, Norwegian, and Flemish translations. The Dry Grass of August was read in the libraries of Richland County, SC, in One Book, One Columbia, and in Wilkes Reads, a county-wide event. The book has been a Kindle Daily Deal, and is featured in a promotion with Southwest Air and Kobo e-books.

In the fall of 2014, A. J. was in residence for a month at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France. Her second novel, Tomorrow’s Bread, will be published in Spring, 2019. An excerpt is in 27 Views of Charlotte: The Queen City in Prose and Poetry

Praise for The Dry Grass of August


“Mayhew keeps the story taut, thoughtful and complex, elevating it from the throng of coming-of-age books.”  - Agua Prieta Publishers Weekly


"Beautifully written, with complex characters, an urgent plot, and an ending so shocking and real it had me in tears." - Odenton Eleanor BrownNew York Times bestselling author of The Weird Sisters


“A must-read for fans of The Help.” - Woman’s World


“Written with unusual charm, wonderful dialogue, and a deeply felt sense of time and place, The Dry Grass of August is a book for adults and young people both—a beautifully written literary novel that is a real page-turner, I have to add. Fast, suspenseful, and meaningful. I read this book straight through.” - Lee Smith, author of Last Girls and Fair and Tender Ladies


“A beautiful book that fans of The Help will enjoy.” - Karen WhiteNew York Times bestselling author

“Because the novel is totally true to Jubie’s point of view, it generates gripping drama as we watch her reach beyond authority to question law and order.” -


“A masterful work of blending time and place.” - The Charlotte Observer


“A beautifully written and important novel. Set in the 1950s South, it deals with race relations in an original, powerful way. It’s also a great story about complicated family relationships, told with humor, delicacy, and penetrating insight. I wish I had written this book.” - Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Butterfly’s Child


“Anna Jean Mayhew has a true ear for Southern speech…The Dry Grass of August is a carefully researched, beautifully written, quietly told tale of love and despair and a look backward at the way it was back then in the South.” - The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina)


“Deeply felt, lasting relationships formed in the mid-20th century South between white families and the African-American women who took care of them. In The Dry Grass of August, Mayhew explores the love and conflicting loyalties in one such extended family, adult and child, black and white. She does so with honesty and sympathy, intimate knowledge and valuable perspective, as well as beautiful writing. This is an important story about the Southern experience and the women who helped to form the American generation now at the peak of its powers.” - Peggy Payne, author of Sister India


“Once you’ve experienced The Dry Grass of August, you’ll swiftly see that Anna Jean Mayhew’s debut novel deserves all the early praise it’s getting…the power, bravery and beauty of Mayhew’s narrative is beyond contestation and well-deserving of a wide readership.” - BookPage


“An extraordinary, absorbing novel.” - Historical Novel Reviews


"If you liked The Help, you must read The Dry Grass of August." - Ahwatukee Foothills News (Phoenix, Arizona)


"With her look back at a racial and cultural society in transition, Mayhew also delivers a coming of age novel that will touch readers' hearts. Then she serves up a tragic moment that will give those same hearts a hurt that will be long remembered." - The Enquirer-Journal


"A superior book to The Help." - Christina BucherNorth Carolina Literary Review