Erika Dreifus lives in New York City. QUIET AMERICANS is her first book of fiction and was inspired in large part by her paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. Portions of proceeds from sales of QUIET AMERICANS will be donated to The Blue Card (www.bluecardfund.org), which supports survivors of Nazi persecution and their families in the United States.
Quiet Americansby Erika Dreifus
A high-ranking Nazi's wife and a Jewish doctor in prewar Berlin. A Jewish immigrant soldier and the German POWs he is assigned to supervise. A refugee returning to Europe for the first time and the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. A son of survivors and technology's potential to reveal long-held family secrets. These are some of the characters and conflicts that emerge in QUIET AMERICANS, in stories that reframe familiar questions about what is right and wrong, remembered and repressed, resolved and unending.
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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 <i>Quiet Americans<i>, 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.
Great stories full of insight.
QUIET AMERICANS by Erika Dreifus I first noticed the man who would become my husband because he was the quiet one, sitting in his usual place at Sonny's Restaurant, observing my group of vocal, late-morning breakfast eaters. Later I would learn he had survived horrific experiences while serving in the Army in Vietnam, and that his Irish immigrant grandparents survived poverty by making a new life in the United States. I would also be the recipient of his big heart, his kindness, his understanding, and the equilibrium of a man who has come to terms with his past. In QUIET AMERICANS, Erika Dreifus has written a collection of seven short stories that in so many ways are like my husband-rich with family history, molded by war and its atrocities, and filled with heart, kindness, understanding, and vergangenheitsbewältigung, meaning "coming to terms with the past," a word found in her title story "The Quiet American." These stories, inspired in large part by her paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1930s, more than surprised me. At first, I kept her collection with me, but couldn't bring myself to read what I thought would be more brutal and painful stories of Holocaust survivors. When I finally opened the book, I found myself so caught up in the stories and the characters' unusual situations, I felt they were my own and kept asking myself, "God, what would I do under similar conditions?" My favorite story in QUIET AMERICANS is "Lebensraum," the story of Josef, a naturalized American and refugee from Europe, who is assigned to oversee four kitchens at a prisoner of war camp in Iowa, where he'll have to bake for 3000 German prisoners, some of whom will be his assistants. He does his duty but worries that the Germans know he's a Jew. Yet, his kindness to the men, mostly farm boys, not political, causes them to ask to attend his son's bris. Their presence horrifies Josef's wife and the Germans are removed. Dreifus handles the complex emotions of the characters without intrusion of authorial judgment. The reader is allowed to be with these characters to the fullest extent, and that's what makes this collection such a successful and inspiring debut. For those who seek another layer, look to the titles of the stories. Lebensraum, a German word that means "living space," was an important component of Nazi ideology, as it served as motivation for Hitler's expansionist policies aimed at providing extra space for the growth of the German population. In the story, Josef worries that the "almost endless land of this America" will be attractive to the Germans, and I thought, yes, of course. Josef didn't know if the Allies would win or not. If you love surprise endings, read my next-to-favorite story, "Mishpocha." The ending made me reel. It's that good. I honestly didn't see it coming. I DO hope that Erika Dreifus continues to surprise us with more intelligent, humane, clear-voiced works that reaches deep into our collective history.