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Quiet Americans Paperback – January 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Last Light Studio (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982708424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982708422
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,507,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Dreifus] cares deeply about history -- her own family history and the larger history that we all inhabit -- and that's what makes her stories both engaging and consequential." --Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

"These are powerful stories, with subtle turning points, and they mark a significant literary debut." --Ron Hogan (Beatrice.com)

"[Dreifus is] a classic storyteller and there's a clear, direct line from Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud to her 21st-century keyboard." --David Abrams (The Quivering Pen)

"[T]hese gently narrated stories are incredibly intimate, sharply focused little gems." --John Vanderslice (Creating Van Gogh)

"Dreifus has a talent for nimbly moving between darkness and light, and for never letting the reader forget that the world is made not of black and white, but of endless shades of grey." --Lori Ann Bloomfield (First Line)

"This book doesn't just feel authentic, it feels alive. A mix of beautiful writing, important subject matter and characters to care about beyond the stories..." -- Sarah Salway (The Short Review)

From the Back Cover

"Erika Dreifus's remarkable QUIET AMERICANS traces the shock waves of the Holocaust reverberating outward through generations of American Jews. These intelligent and multi-layered stories are packed with surprises that challenge us to reconsider what we know--or think we know--about good and evil, memory and forgiveness, survival and identity....A first-rate debut."
-Margot Singer, author of THE PALE OF SETTLEMENT

"In searing, pitch-perfect prose, Erika Dreifus evokes in QUIET AMERICANS the heart-wrenching intersections between domesticity and war. Drenched in the blood-soaked history of the Holocaust--yet attentive to those quietest moments between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children--these stories gather unexpected force sentence by sentence, page by page. On several occasions during my reading, I needed to remind myself to breathe."
-Andrew Furman, author of CONTEMPORARY JEWISH AMERICAN WRITERS AND THE MULTICULTURAL DILEMMA

More About the Author

Professional, short version:

Erika Dreifus is the author of QUIET AMERICANS, a short-story collection that is largely inspired by the histories and experiences of her paternal grandparents, German Jews who escaped Nazi persecution and immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. Erika earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, where she taught history, literature, and writing for several years. Currently, she lives in New York City, where she works for The City University of New York.

Chatty, long version:

I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived there until I was nine, when our family moved to a New Jersey suburb. I received my bachelor's degree from Harvard College, where I majored in Modern European (primarily French and British) History and Literature, studied nonfiction writing with Verlyn Klinkenborg and Richard Marius, and held a term-time job in the undergraduate admissions office. I still consider passing the Harvard swim test to be one of my greatest undergraduate achievements, followed closely by my participation in intramural crew (for which I had to take the test in the first place) and the associated early morning wakeups to row on the Charles River before breakfast.

After college, I moved to Washington, D.C., where I worked for the Federal government and sustained my literary interests by taking workshops at The Writer's Center (Bethesda, Md.), continuing to study French at Georgetown University, and participating in two excellent book clubs.

Soon enough, I returned to Massachusetts, where I earned a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and then embarked on a doctoral degree in history, also at Harvard. My doctoral dissertation, "Double Games and Golden Prisons: Vichy, Washington, and Diplomatic Internment During World War II," examined some little-known aspects of Franco-American diplomacy during the Second World War. I received my Ph.D. in 1999, by which time I'd also taken countless writing workshops at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Harvard Extension School. I'd had the additional good fortune of joining an outstanding writing group. Along the way, I managed to acquire a few freelance credits, publishing essays and reviews with the BOSTON BOOK REVIEW, the BOSTON GLOBE, HADASSAH, and others.

By 2001, when an agent agreed to represent my first novel, I had developed enough of a writerly identity to want to seek an M.F.A. degree. Having already earned (more than) my share of "traditional" degrees and happy enough with my teaching gigs at the time--a lectureship back in my old Harvard History and Literature home and adjunct positions at the Harvard Extension School and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education--I decided that the low-residency route made the most sense for me. I joined the inaugural fiction cohort at Queens University of Charlotte, where I received the M.F.A. in 2003.

Life has taken some unexpected turns since then. My first novel never sold. My lectureship ended, and I wasn't certain what might follow it. I remained in the Boston area for a few years, freelancing and adjuncting. I was especially fortunate to work with students in Lesley University's low-residency MFA program in creative writing, where I led online courses in book reviewing, and to begin publishing articles and reviews in THE WRITER magazine, where I am now a contributing editor. In 2004, I launched a free monthly newsletter, THE PRACTICING WRITER, which focuses on the craft and business of writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

In early 2007, I moved to New York City, where I currently hold a full-time, writing-intensive job at The City University of New York (alma mater to both of my parents). I also began studying poetry, mainly via online courses, and am very pleased to have integrated poetry-writing into my formerly all-prose practice.

My story collection, QUIET AMERICANS, will be published by Last Light Studio in early 2011. The book features stories that have appeared in J JOURNAL: NEW WRITING ON JUSTICE, MISSISSIPPI REVIEW ONLINE, and TRIQUARTERLY, among others. Work in the collection has won the David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Contest (for writing on Jewish themes), received a Pushcart special mention (two nominations), and earned honorable mentions in several other competitions.

QUIET AMERICANS is largely inspired by the experiences and stories of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, and by my own identity as a member of the "third generation." A portion of the proceeds from sales of QUIET AMERICANS will be donated to The Blue Card, whose mission is to assist Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution and their families who are in need in the United States, and on whose board my sister serves.

Customer Reviews

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Friday evening after a long day, I sat down and read it cover to cover, unable to put it down.
Amy M
Virtually all of the stories are connected by a common family lineage and they demonstrate the lingering impact of that horrific time even to present times.
Lee Mandel
In this powerful collection of family stories, Erika Dreifus' elegant prose reveals the private inner lives and struggles of her characters.
Shary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elli on January 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
This collection of short stories explores the experiences of German Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust. The settings range from a small German village on the edge of the Black Forest in 1888, to a prisoner-of-war camp in rural Illinois in 1944, to Munich in 2004. Dreifus subtly reminds us of the historical and cultural context - in lightning-flash images of Kristallnacht, or the appearance of a minor character of startling historical importance, or the surprising appearance of Black September in a story about something else. What I loved most about Quiet Americans is its bigheartedness. These stories are understated and full of surprises; they are about generosity and forgiveness as well as atrocity, about kindness as well as survival.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Beth Garland on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
In "Quiet Americans", Erika Dreifus expertly crafts a group of stories about Jewish Americans, all touched by the Holocaust either as survivors themselves or as the children and grandchildren of survivors. In 8 stories, 4 of them linked through generations of the same family, Dreifus brings the heart-wrenching stories of her characters to life, her use of historical facts and geographical reference so strong, it is easy to be drawn in, to feel as though you are in each one, however limited your knowledge of the Holocaust or Germany is.

In my favorite story, "The Quiet American, or How to be a Good Guest", the second person point-of-view Dreifus uses to describe a young Jewish American woman's bus tour of Stuttgart works perfectly to draw the reader in instantly and to build tension throughout with the at least unsympathetic if not anti-semitic sentiments of the tour guide, Greta, and the final stand of a British WWII vet who puts Greta in her place and endears himself to the main character who feels herself "rescued" by an Ally force, just as her ancestors were.

Though writing about a subject matter that is more than half a century old, Dreifus brings a fresh perspective to the Holocaust and shows how prevalent its impact on the world still is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
The stories that are never told are stories that still shape us all. "Quiet Americans" is a collection of short stories from Erika Dreifus as she tells the story of many individuals who in their past tragedies through the world reflect on them and share them for future generations. Reflecting strongly on her German Jewish roots, the fallout of the Holocaust and Israel are major topics, and prove "Quiet Americans" to be an intriguing and insightful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Pertler on February 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. Erika Dreifus understand the intricacies of the human psyche and weaves them into her stories with an expert hand. This collection draws you in, evokes emotion and makes you ponder ideas and ideals. Short stories? Yes. But there is so much more within the pages of Quiet Americans, as the stories are intertwined through generations. This book takes an old and new look at the Holocaust from then until now, in ways I'd not thought of before. Thought-provoking and compelling.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sherry Askwith on January 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Erika Dreifus captures the reverberating impact of the Holocaust on 20th and 21st century Jews in stories full of understated emotion, stories with which many can identify and from which all will learn. Through her empathic characterization, we begin to understand the lasting effect of this era on those who survived it. You will be immediately drawn in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lost In a Book on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of stories moves from Europe to America (and sometimes back again), following lives that become enmeshed in the Holocaust, either directly or via family legacy. Dreyfus has a gift for coming up with fresh but completely plausible scenarios that highlight the existential anxieties of Jewish Americans in the age of Hitler and afterwards: a German-born G.I. who fled the Nazis and now finds out his army assignment is to train captured Germans to work in his mess hall ("Lebensraum"); the son of camp survivors, who gets a mind-bending surprise when he undergoes DNA testing in search of information about lost relatives; a woman, visiting Stuttgart in 2004 and wondering what to say to a tour guide who harps endlessly on the destruction of property by Allied bombings ("The Quiet American"). The Americans in these stories are quiet in more than one sense--their lives, for the most part, are safe and comfortable; as they get older, even the ones who just barely survived the Nazis no longer scream in the night. But they are also quiet because they don't want to talk about what they've been through--or because they're afraid, like the Stuttgart tourist, of seeming to make too much of a fuss about past history, of incurring the resentment and wrath that Jews often feel threatened with. Deceptively simple, Dreyfus's tales exhibit a moral poise, empathy, and willingness, finally, to pass judgement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Erika Dreifus has written a collection of short stories that are small gems. I am not a great fan of short stories. I generally like longer works of fiction, but lately I've come to realise that the writing of good short stories is probably far more difficult than writing a novel. With short stories, the author doesn't have the latitude to endlessly express himself. What he writes must be - by definition - short and to the point. Characters have to be drawn carefully and plots are often jettisoned to make way for character development.

Dreifus reminds me of Chicago writer Joseph Epstein, who has written two or three collections of short stories about Jewish characters in Chicago. Dreifus's stories center around Jewish refugees and their descendants. All have emigrated to the US from Germany and have remade their lives here. Several of the short stories are about the same family as it adjusts to life here and how their children - "Second Generations", they're called - deal with their parents and the general reticence about talking about the past.

Dreifus, for a first time novelist, has a sure hand as she draws her characters. "Quiet Americans" is not a long book, but a very good one. I'd like to read more by her.
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