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Reading Together 2013


Read a book as a family with Reading Together!
June 1 – July 31

How to Participate | Reading Together Author Talk | Story Synopsis

About the Author | Letter from the Author | Author's Website | Book Reviews

Discussion Questions


Reading Together encourages multi-generational reading and discussions in families and the community. Free copies of a chosen book are made available to participants who read them, then share their copy of the book with family members or friends. At the end of the Reading Together period, a discussion is held at the library.

The 2013 Reading Together selection is Hillsborough author A.J. Mayhew’s coming-of-age story, The Dry Grass of August.

Read the book between June 1 and July 31, and then join A.J. at the Main Library in Hillsborough as she leads a discussion at 6 p.m. on July 31.


How to Participate in Reading Together

Reading Together runs from June 1 to July 31, 2013.

Starting June 1, and while supplies last, receive a free copy of the The Dry Grass of August when you register for Summer Reading 2013. Read the book then pass it along to your friends, siblings, parents and children for a multigenerational discussion starter.

Copies of The Dry Grass of August are also available for borrowing through Orange County Public Library’s collection and can be purchased from book sellers, such as Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough.

At 6 p.m. on July 31, A.J. Mayhew will lead a discussion about The Dry Grass of August at the Main Library in Hillsborough.


Story Synopsis

Book Cover: The Dry Grass of AugustIn this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, 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. (From the publisher.)

Read an essay on Paula Watts, one of the main characters in The Dry Grass of August.


About the Author

Anna Jean (A. J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the 2011 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the 2012 Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and is in its ninth printing. A Blackstone Audio book came out in December, the French and Italian translations are now in print; Turkish and Polish translations come out in 2014. In February 2012, A. J. was a featured speaker at Southern Voices in Birmingham, AL, along with novelist Scott Turow. She was in residence in the summer of 2012 at the Hambidge Center in Georgia and at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The Dry Grass of August was selected to be read in the libraries of Richland County, South Carolina, in “One Book, One Columbia”; A. J. appeared in Columbia in various events February 26-March 1, 2013. A.J. lives in Hillsborough and she is now working on her next novel, Tomorrow’s Bread.  Visit A. J. Mayhew's website

Author Interviews:

Letter From A.J. Mayhew

Dear Reading Together Participants,

I’m delighted that Orange County Public Library has chosen The Dry Grass of August for Summer Reading 2013, and that families will be reading and discussing it before we get together on July 31 at OCPL, my hometown library.

As many of you know, it took me a long time to write the book—18 years—and that I was 71 when it was published in 2011. Along the way, I had several different careers. At the “Reading Together” event, I want to encourage all who attend, especially young people who feel drawn to writing, to use whatever you learn in life. For example, I was once a court reporter, taking testimony in trials and depositions. I recorded what witnesses said, then I transcribed the testimony, then proofread it. So it went through my mind at least three times. Dialogue is one of my strengths as a writer, and I credit my years of court reporting for that gift.

Along life’s way, we pick up knowledge we might not immediately see as important to a later career as a writer. Imagine you have a summer job as a stock clerk at a dollar store. You spend your day stocking shelves with items as varied as toothpaste and dog food. You may feel you disappear in that job, that shoppers really don’t see you, that check-out clerks are too involved in their registers to pay attention to you. Take advantage of that invisibility. Listen to what can often be dramatic dialogue that takes place around you. Go home and write a scene around those “found” characters. For example, a woman and teenager are shopping together. You don’t know their relationship, but it is soon revealed by what they say to each other. Girl: “He didn’t have to hide the car keys.” Woman: “Last time you took them without asking.” Girl: “I’m so tired of hearing about last time. I got grounded, remember?” Woman: “Well, your father doesn’t think that worked.” Girl: “I can’t wait till next year when I move out. He’ll miss me.” Woman: “I’m sure he will, but he won’t miss____________________________.” Fill in the blank. Let your imagination go wild. Turn what seems a typical mother-daughter scene into something far more dramatic.

I’d like to discuss that part of the creative process and how you can stimulate yourself to create characters. For instance, I cut this photo out of a 1954 Ladies Home Journal, to give me a visual on Jubie and her best friend Maggie. Wouldn’t you love to listen in on their conversation as they get ready to go to the beach?

Thank you, Orange County Public Library, for your wonderful support of local writers…we’re blessed to have such a fine resource and such enthusiasm for the creative residents of Hillsborough!

AJ Mayhew

Discussion Questions for The Dry Grass of August

Use these discussion questions to guide your reading of the novel then join Ms. Mayhew for a Reading Together author talk on July 31 at 6:00 p.m. at the Main Library in Hillsborough.

  1. What do you think about Paula’s decision to take Mary on the trip, given the antipathy in the deep south post Brown v. Board?
  2. Why does Puddin so often try to hide or run away? What does her behavior say about the family?
  3. Why didn’t Paula try to stop Bill from beating Jubie?
  4. Is Uncle Taylor a racist?
  5. Why did the clown at Joyland by the Sea give Jubie a rose?
  6. If you’d been Paula (or Bill) what would you have done when Cordelia failed to appear for dinner? How could they have handled that differently?
  7. Why does Paula take Bill back after his affair with her brother’s wife?
  8. Did Bill and Paula act responsibly as parents when they allowed Jubie and Stell to go with Mary to the Daddy Grace parade in Charlotte? The tent meeting in Claxton?
  9. Why didn’t Paula punish Jubie for stealing the Packard to go to Mary’s Funeral?
  10. What drove Stamos to suicide?
  11. Which major character changes the most? The least?
  12. Which character in the book did you identify with the most? The least?
  13. If you could interview Jubie, what would you ask her? What about Mary? Paula? Bill? Stell?
  14. If Bill died at the end of the book, what would his obituary say if Paula wrote it? If Stell wrote it? If Jubie wrote it?
  15. Given that there’s little hope for Jubie and Leesum to be friends in 1954, what would it be like for them if they met again today?