The last book in the running for my book club selection next month is The Dry Grass of Autumn by Anna Jean Mayhew. I’ve chosen four books just to make sure than when the time comes in a couple weeks for me to reserve the book discussion kit from the library, as least one of my selections will be available.
The Dry Grass of Autumn is a set in 1954 in Charlotte, North Carolina shortly after the Supreme Court verdict in Brown vs. the Board of Education. As with the previous novel, The Saving of CeeCee Honeycutt, this story is also told through the eyes of a young teenager, Jubie Watts.
The book begins…”In August of 1954, we took our first trip without Daddy, and Stell got to use the driver’s license she’d had such a fit about. It was just a little card saying she was Estelle Annette Watts, that she was white, with hazel eyes and brown hair. But her having a license made the trip different from any others, because if she hadn’t had it, we never would have been stuck in Sally’s motel Park in Claxton, Georgia, where we went to buy fruitcakes and had wreck instead. And Mary would still be with us;” Mary was their “colored girl”, their house-keeper, cook and nanny. This book tells the story of the Watts family; Bill, Paulie and their four children, Stell, Jubie, Puddin, Davie, and their “girl” Mary and the ramifications of their ill-fated trip to the deep south.
Just as the previous book, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, this book also drew me in from the very beginning but for very different reasons. For most people of my generation, especially in the midwest, segregation was just something we read about. My husband, who grew up in Nashville and is nine years older than me, lived through desegregation and knows many of the older generations could not accept it.
A couple years ago in my college Speech class, I heard for the first time all of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and I was transfixed. These are some of the words I have never forgotten. What a powerful speaker that man was.
“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.”