The UnAmericans: Stories

Overview

A stunning exploration of characters shaped by the forces of history, the debut work of fiction by a 2013 National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree.
An absentee father, a former dissident from communist-era Prague, needles his adult daughter for details about her newly commissioned play when he fears it will cast him in an unflattering light. An actor, imprisoned during the Red Scare for playing up his communist leanings to get a part with a leftist film director, is shamed ...

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The UnAmericans

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Overview

A stunning exploration of characters shaped by the forces of history, the debut work of fiction by a 2013 National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree.
An absentee father, a former dissident from communist-era Prague, needles his adult daughter for details about her newly commissioned play when he fears it will cast him in an unflattering light. An actor, imprisoned during the Red Scare for playing up his communist leanings to get a part with a leftist film director, is shamed by his act when he reunites with his precocious young son. An Israeli soldier, forced to defend a settlement filled with American religious families, still pines for a chance to discover the United States for himself. A young Israeli journalist, left unemployed after America’s most recent economic crash, questions her life path when she begins dating a middle-aged widower still in mourning for his wife. And in the book’s final story, a tour de force spanning three continents and three generations of women, a young American and her Israeli husband are forced to reconsider their marriage after the death of her dissident art-collecting grandmother.
Again and again, Molly Antopol’s deeply sympathetic characters struggle for footing in an uncertain world, hounded by forces beyond their control. Their voices are intimate and powerful and they resonate with searing beauty. Antopol is a superb young talent, and The UnAmericans will long be remembered for its wit, humanity, and heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Dara Horn
“Antopol accomplishes in each of these stories what would take most writers an entire novel to achieve: a fully imagined world.”
Esquire Magazine
“The Unamericans is poised to be this year's sensation… the layered riches and historical sweep of its stories make them feel grand, like novels writ small.”
Vogue
“[A] poised debut.”
Lauren Waterman - Dujour
“Evoked with uncommon skill and confidence.”
New York Journal of Books
“In a word: Wow!”
Laura Moser - Jewish Daily Forward
“[Antopol] is a wry, occasionally funny writer, with an unerring grasp on human nature…”
Carmela Ciuraru - San Francisco Chronicle
“Antopol writes convincingly and with great empathy.”
Meg Wolitzer - NPR
“[Will] make you nostalgic, not just for earlier times, but for another era in short fiction. A time when writers such as Bernard Malamud, and Issac Bashevis Singer and Grace Paley roamed the earth.”
Kim Winternheimer - Oregonian
“Witty and heartbreaking prose.”
Dwight Garner - The New York Times
“Fresh and offbeat… memorable and promising.”
Dwight Garner - New York Times
“Fresh and offbeat… memorable and promising.”
Abraham Verghese
“Molly Antopol's stories display that wonderful combination of an original voice with settings that are masterfully rendered. A rich collection, a great read.”
Lauren Groff
“A brave, generous, and effortlessly smart story collection by a young writer with talent to burn.”
Joan Silber
“Allegiances are not always what they seem, in these wonderfully engrossing stories of Old- and New-World Jews cast on the sometimes rough waters of history. Molly Antopol is a vivid chronicler of the good intentions and big misapprehensions of her characters, as we intently watch them try to get it right.”
Ken Kalfus
“This is deeply humane fiction, coursing with the heat of a passionate, sympathetic heart.”
Peter Orner
“An exceptional collection of wide-ranging, powerful, and nuanced stories…You come away with an ache in your soul for all her people and what they were up against, how they triumphed, how they failed, and how they managed, somehow, to endure.”
Christine Schutt
“Deeply satisfying stories…morally complex and emotionally instructive.”
Adam Johnson
“A writer of seismic talent…Not since Robert Stone has a writer so examined the nature of disillusionment and the ways in which newfound hope can crack the cement of failed dreams.”
Jesmyn Ward
“Beautiful, funny, fearless, exquisitely crafted, and truly novelistic in scope…It's clearwe're in the hands of a master storyteller—a writer with the emotional heft of Nicole Krauss, the intellectual depth of Saul Bellow, and the penetrating wit of Philip Roth. This book isn’t simply powerful and important—it's necessary.”
Publishers Weekly
10/14/2013
At the core of this debut collection is an exploration of those difficult ties that bind families and communities. Spanning a large swath of the 20th century, these are stories about the older generation of Jews who fled Europe and saw their courage tested: Jewish-American laborers, actors, and intelligentsia who believed in larger—if failed—causes, such as communism, and paid a price for their commitment. The stories are also about the chasm between fathers and their children, as well as between brothers. Antopol’s narrators are men and women of various ages, from America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. In “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story,” a grandmother recounts her dangerous mission for the Yiddish Underground at Horodetz, once part of Poland but now in Belarus. “Minor Heroics” tells of a young man saving his older brother’s life on an Israeli moshav (settlement); the “The Unknown Soldier” is about an actor, jailed for a year in 1950 for allegedly anti-American activities, who tries to rekindle his relationship with his 10-year-old son. The collection crescendos with “The Quietest Man,” in which a former dissident from Communist-era Prague obsesses about how he is to be portrayed in a play written by the daughter he neglected. There are no happy endings, nor does Antopol people her stories with heroes. What draws the reader to her deeply flawed characters is their keen self-awareness, and their consequent ability to act with a semblance of moral, sometimes even selfless, integrity. (Feb.)
Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
In her debut story collection, Antopol looks deeply into the lives of people whose geographies are not easy to define, such as the Israeli journalist who only feels alive when on assignment in Kiev and the California actor who claims more Russian heritage than he actually has, having lived in the United States since he was two years old. Within these compelling narratives, Antopol conveys not only the inner lives of her characters but also the political and social history they carry with them from the sewers of Eastern Europe (an escape route from imminent capture by Nazis) to the Israeli kibbutz to the streets of New York, among other places in the diaspora. VERDICT These rich stories, in many ways reminiscent of the work of Grace Paley (The Little Disturbances of Man), are often sharply funny and always intelligent, and readers will find them immediately appealing. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/13.]—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393349962
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/6/2014
  • Pages: 272

Meet the Author

Molly Antopol teaches writing at Stanford University, where she was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow. A recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, she holds an MFA fromColumbiaUniversityandlives in San Francisco.

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