21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"Without Mary, the heart of our home was broken.",
This review is from: The Dry Grass of August (Paperback)
A study on family dysfunction and racism in the 1950s south and a coming of age story, this tale is narrated in the voice of thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts. What reads like young adult fiction is tainted with an ugly brutality that might require discussion with a teen. The format is much-traveled, a young girl facing the harsh realities of the world she lives in, Jubie Watts no exception, her security unraveling with the increased arguments between Paula and William Watts, William's womanizing and drinking impacting his family destructively. The Watts are a traditional family of the era, four children, non-working mother, a "girl" to help with children and chores. Though Mary Luther, the family's "colored girl", is essential to a functioning household, she remains invisible because of the color of her skin. For Jubie, Mary is the rock on which everything rests, Paula too preoccupied to deal with the concerns of a precocious teenager.
A family driving vacation from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Pensacola, Florida is set against the seminal Supreme Court desegregation decision of Brown v. The Board of Education, Paula and her children packed into the family car, Mary in the back seat. The harsh words exchanged by her parents are soon forgotten as Jubie and her siblings experience the usual excitement and discomforts of the trip, but a tragedy inevitably occurs, completely unmooring Jubie from everything she has believed. The novel runs on two tracks, Jubie's awareness of a crumbling family dynamic and the entrenched racism of the 50s south, an array of signs posting nighttime curfews for "coloreds" (or the more derogatory term), strict enforcement of segregation in public transportation and in motels and the indomitable spirit of people who have endured long and suffered much.
Mary is an exceptional woman. It is unfortunate that only Jubie fully realizes her value. When ignorance and brutality strike one night in Florida, the trauma reverberates through the family, but not all are willing to pay homage to Mary's efforts on their behalf over the years. While Jubie's grief-stricken reaction is the crux of the novel, the fact is that many young girls of this era are oblivious to the racism that thrives. For all the understanding Jubie embraces, the life of this woman is just too much too pay, fodder for another outrageous incident among too many. Good for Mahew for telling this story, but Jubie's pain pales in comparison to the injustices inflicted. Shame on us that such awakenings are the exception. Luan Gaines/2011.
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Initial post: Apr 3, 2011 2:03:45 PM PDT
After reading one of your comments on another review, I was intrigued enough to want to read more of your reviews. This is both a warmly detailed one as well as one that includes your personal take ("shame on us that such awakenings are the exception"). A much appreciated review!
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2011 10:57:54 PM PDT
Luan Gaines says:
Thanks for that. I have long enjoyed your reviews and look forward to your perspective on new titles!
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