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The UnAmericans

The UnAmericans

5.0 3
by Molly Antopol

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* Longlisted for the National Book Award * 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


* Longlisted for the National Book Award * 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.

Editorial Reviews

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
The New York Times - Dwight Garner
Molly Antopol's first book…has poise and gravity. It sometimes put me in mind of Allegra Goodman's work; both writers are adept at auditing the emotional lives of frazzled Jewish intellectuals. At other times, the Old World lefty politics in Ms. Antopol's stories summoned the memory of Grace Paley, for whom every joke came wrapped around a bony fist of meaning…The details in these stories are consistently fresh and offbeat without being showy…Ms. Antopol's soulfulness and wit make even holding actions memorable and promising.
Dwight Garner - New York Times
“Fresh and offbeat… memorable and promising.”
Hannah K. Gold - The Nation
“Unflinchingly honest… Thrilling.”
Nadia Kalman - Jewish Review of Books
“[Full of] witty descriptions and engaging characters.”
Sandee Brawarsky - Jewish Weekly
“Outstanding… the stories begin as though the reader is walking into an intimate conversation already underway… [and] the endings are never predictable.”
Ann Hulbert - The Atlantic
“A memorable collection of melancholic vignettes about identity, place, and coupling.”
Lauren Groff
“A brave, generous, and effortlessly smart story collection by a young writer with talent to burn.”
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.”
“[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.”
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.”
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.”
Ken Kalfus
“This is deeply humane fiction, coursing with the heat of a passionate, sympathetic heart.”
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.”
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.”
Kirkus Reviews
The impressive debut collection by Antopol (National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Awardee; Wallace Stegner Fellow) features a variety of settings--Israel, Belarus, California, Poland, Maine--and characters, but it also has an unusual cohesiveness for a first collection. Most of the characters here are Jews of Eastern European extraction; most are grappling, in one way or another, with issues of estrangement: from home, from family members, from the big ideological/idealistic causes they once espoused, from themselves. In "The Unknown Soldier," set in California at the time of Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunts, a young Russian-American actor emerges from a year in prison for contempt of Congress--a rap he takes despite being a communist of convenience, so as to aid his movie career, rather than of conviction--and tries to reconnect with his 10-year-old son. "The Quietest Man" centers on a Czech dissenter and émigré-turned–American professor who, a quarter-century after his departure from Prague and nearly as long after a divorce brought on by his selfishness, is terrified that his semi-estranged daughter, a playwright, has written a scarcely veiled indictment of his failures and inattentions. The harrowing and poignant "My Grandmother Tells Me This Story" depicts a ragtag band of World War II teen guerrillas who call themselves the Yiddish Underground. Antopol offers complex, psychologically subtle portraits of her often regretful characters, and the details--child revolutionaries carrying sharpened branches through Eastern European forests during WWII since, at a distance, they can pass for rifles or Czech dissidents who must compose their plaints against the government longhand since "the government had a record of everyone who owned typewriters"--are chilling and persuasive. A smart, empathetic, well-crafted first collection--Antopol is a writer to watch.

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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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 from Columbia University and lives in San Francisco.

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The UnAmericans 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Stories that range through time to explore Jewish American, European, and Israeli identity:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago