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The UnAmericans

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,234 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
In this auspicious debut, Molly Antopol cuts a wide swath through the fabric of time and place, exploring people from different cultures who are all painfully human in their joys, desires, tragedies, and heartaches. An actor, phased out of Hollywood for his Communist ties during McCarthyism, tries to share a meaningful moment with his son. An Israeli soldier comes of age w ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 3rd 2014 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 27th 2014)
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May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Trish by: Melanie
It hardly seems credible that this 2014 debut collection was written by a woman recognized as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” in 2013. She has such old eyes.

Antopol’s stories have very clear and inescapable hooks; we readers recognize, accept, and ultimately rejoice in her power over us. Once begun, her stories are impossible to resist. We stretch them out, hoping they will last the night, the week. The human element in her characters is painfully evident and we wish to see ho
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stela-eða-láni
All the Lonely People, Where Do They All Come From?
Final Short Story is the Best I've Read Since Joyce's "The Dead"

"The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly." The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Gatsby quote came to mind upon finishing "Retrospective," the final, juggernaut story in these collected thought-provoking stories that primarily revolve around Jews in WW II Europe, in Israel, as well as co
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Teresa by: Melanie
Antopol's characters are on the move. They were born in Kiev, Belarus, Prague, the Bronx, Tel Aviv, Moscow and Boston, though they live in New York, California, Maine, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with no guarantee they'll stay put. Each story has a political element, as fitting for its time and place; yet, with one notable exception, these stories could be set anywhere: a newly divorced man and a widow quickly falling for each other; a playwright-daughter yearning for her father's approval; a father ...more
Larry H
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There was a time when I didn't read short stories, because I said I didn't like getting emotionally invested in characters and plot only to have to move on a short while later. It was a foolish sentiment, in retrospect, one which I abandoned about 15 years ago when I realized how rich the short story landscape truly was, filled with talented authors creating stories with the power of full-length novels, stories whose characters intrigued me and made me long to know more about what happened to th ...more
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
A title such as “The UnAmericans” begs this question: what is an American? Or more specifically, what is an American in Molly Antopol’s world?

A traditional answer might be to have a personal sense of identity and to be unencumbered to pursue one’s most shining hopes and dreams in a land where anything is possible.

Molly Antopol’s characters are mostly Jewish and they are mostly alienated – from spouse or kids, from past ideology and beliefs, and often, from their most authentic selves. Each stor
Julia Fierro
Masterful writing. Nuanced characterization, urgent and compelling stories, this is a writer to watch and to learn from. I'm very excited to interview Molly Antopol at the 5 Under 35 National Book Awards, along with the other nominees. There is a keenly compassionate observation of the micro and macro struggles of humanity in these stories, and I admire her greatly for it. And one more thing, many of these stories have a delightfully neurotic humor. My favorite kind.
The UnAmericans is a very pleasant surprise, especially considering the state of contemporary western short story. Most contemporary collections of short stories - especially debut ones - don't tend to contain actual stories anymore; they're mostly comprised of individual situations (often very fantastical) which often do paint distinct images, but fail to provide a story to surround them with and interesting characters to drive them forward. There are of course notable exceptions, such as Karen ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
The stories in the The UnAmericans struck a chord in me. Each one of these wise and generous stories contains an entire world and feels like a mini novel. The book title isn't just a random title of one of the stories -but perfectly describes each story. I couldn't help referring several times to the very young looking photo of Antopol on the dust jacket. So impressive.
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
According to the cover of this book, Adam Johnson (author of The Orphan Master's Son) describes Molly Antopol as "a writer of seismic talent." After reading The UnAmericans, I could not agree more. Antopol is a master craftswoman of words and her writing is extraordinary. It is so nice to find an author that you immediately love and I can't wait for her to start putting out more stories and hopefully novels.

Many, if not all, of these stories are about Israel/Russia and being Jewish/from the Sov
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Exceptional collection by a very talented writer. I think my favorite story was "My Grandmother Tells Me This Story". I can see the comparisons to Philip Roth in some of these. I think there were a couple of moments that could've been better. There was one story set in the 1950s, but the use of language didn't seem to match. Overall, this is an impressive debut, and I look forward to her future works.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this - very unexpectedly. I am usually not a fan of short story collections, as I find it difficult to switch gears between stories. For this book, each story was so self-contained and well-written that I didn't mind - but I did have to pause between each story to really let them sink in.

My favorite of the book is probably "Retrospective," the last story, in which an Israeli man is forced to reconsider his marriage once his wife's grandmother dies. I also loved "The Quietest Man," where
Diane S ☔
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 The thread connecting all these stories is that of the immigrant, hence unamericans. They take place in different times and places. Ordinary people often caught up in matters beyond their control, how tenuous are the connections between people and how they react to these changed circumstances. All looking for clues, their own road maps for the future.

These stories are extremely well written, some seem to be so fully contained they seemed much longer than they appear, fully realized stories.
Loes Dissel
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
" She grabbed his arm and asked what was wrong. But for the first time, Boaz couldn't think of a single word to describe this kind of loneliness, so scary and real it required an entirely different language, new and strange and yet to be invented.".
The third story in this collection bears the title "My Grandmother Tells Me This Story" and that captures the overall flavor of Antopol’s work: wordy, comforting, unreliable in the details. These are stories told over coffee at the local deli, elbows on the table and bagel crumbs on the plate, or at night after dinner, while the coffee brews. There’s a sense of oral history here which is quite beguiling, but also, because Antopol is skilled, of the way the stories we tell reveal more about who w ...more
Steph Green
Mar 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I read a review of this book on NPR and since I do enjoy a good collection of short stories, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was a bit disappointed by this collection, though. I feel a little out of place with my three-star review after perusing the many, many four- and five-star ratings here, but I'm sticking with my initial reaction. My basic problem with the collection was not with the writing, which, sentence to sentence, was excellent. I found Antopol's stories inconsistent in terms of cha ...more
Carl R.
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not since Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, have I read a set of stories that so captured the heart of immigrant and ex-pat America. I don’t mean to belittle Molly Antopol by saying that her The UnAmericans doesn’t quite measure up to Pearlman’s work. She’s so very young, after all, having just received an award for under-35′ers, and she has a long time to develop her prodigious talent. Plus, I haven’t read any collection by anybody save maybe Munro or Chekov that compares with Pearlman. Howeve ...more
Chris Blocker
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sa-clegg
The UnAmericans is a wonderful new collection of short stories. Molly Antopol does an amazing job giving a sense of urgency to these stories, making them feel more novelistic in scope. In a matter of a few pages, I was completely drawn into the tale and felt like I'd spent more time with these characters than just those few pages. These stories are intelligent and well-written, though nothing new or startling in terms of craft and style. They're emotional and really capture those idiosyncrasies ...more
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
this debut came with lots of hype and power blurbs, which is ok by me, let'em blurb. but instead of new and exciting these semi-connected stories are as mannered and fashioned as could be. stories of the horrible stew made before, during, and after wwii in eastern europe (ukraine), the scifi horror show of ussr from 1945-1991, and the many lives and families, if they survived it all, flung to the far corners of nyc and all points imaginable in between. stories to recommend to your teabag uncle, ...more
Kasa Cotugno
It would be impossible to pick a favorite from this collection, and the fact that it is a debut makes it all the more remarkable. Each is set against a larger canvas of history, but is a microcosm of life. Most of the characters face huge issues, nothing is rudimentary. No surprise that Antopol, a Stegner Fellow and professor at Stanford, has already received such acclaim. Her writing is deep and meaty without a superfluous word.
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved these stories. Antopol's a powerhouse of a writer who nails the way people behave in families and relationships. The stories do a beautiful job of incorporating the broader historical and political landscapes while creating fascinating characters. They truly feel expansive. The last collection I devoured this quickly was Alice Munro's A Friend of My Youth. In fact the scope and depth of these stories often remind me of Munro -- as does the elegant and authoritative prose style.
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading these beautiful stories and I'm still in that frozen, barely able to move state I get into after finishing a great book. In other words, if this book had been a movie, I'd have just sat there at the end watching the credits roll, praying it never ended. A little Nicole Krauss, a little Bernard Malamud, a little Jonathan Franzen. So glad I scored an ARC!
Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Looking at the impressive endorsements on the back cover, as well as the overwhelmingly positive reviews here on GoodReads, I’m wondering what I missed. I enjoyed many of the individual stories, but the collection as a whole doesn’t work for me. The good: I like the concept – stories about contemporary Jewish life, about alienation and despondency. (The title is a clever play on this, but in the end, somewhat distracting and unintentionally political, I believe.) I love how quickly Antopol was a ...more
Emily Simpson
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Admission: This rating has far less to do with the quality of sentences or sentiments in the collection (it's very well written), and more to do with my exhaustion with the subject matter. Feel free to judge me.
Jason Diamond
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love me a good collection of short stories with a bunch of Jewish characters. Stellar stuff.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, bookriot2017
From a purely aesthetic perspective, these short stories are well-written. I struggled with the rating on this one because I enjoyed reading the stories as stories, and found them full of interesting insights. At the same time, that this was done so well made it more important to me that it was possible for the author to create a representation of Israel from which Palestinians are so completely absent. It's a perfect fantasy in a time where the justification for this state's existence hangs on ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
הסופרת יהודיה אמריקנית, אבל מתוכן הספר לגמרי ברור שבילתה חלק ניכר מחייה בישראל. רוב הסיפורים בקובץ עוסקים ביהודים - בארה"ב , בישראל, על התפר, מהגרים יהודים, קומוניסטים יהודים בארה"ב בשנות מקארתי. נדיר שאני נהנה כל כך מסיפורים קצרים, זאת לא סוגה אהובה עליי במיוחד, אבל חלק גדול מאלה בספר נגעו בי באופן אישי. חוצמזה, משעשע לקרוא כתיבה אינטימית על ישראל באנגלית.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Molly, what a nice surprise!
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“But there was no denying how painful it was to be in a family that had always seemed so confused by her for stubbornly studying the languages of all the places they’d never go, as if it were some geeky form of rebellion, rather than what learning them had always been to her, a shield against loneliness.”

"Maybe her need to travel, to hear other people’s stories, to make a name for herself—maybe it had never been ambition and curiosity that drove her but the plain and simple fear that she wouldn’
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is comforting in a sense to read a collection of stories so traditionally rendered, so devoid of gimmickry, that the entire weight of each tale is on the evolution of character and situation resulting in emotional climax. These stories, delicate and brutal, all about the Jewish experience in America, in Israel, in Ukraine, all touch on cultural and psychological truths that push past any sort of insular boundaries. The strongest of the stories here, one about a father dealing with his daughte ...more
Simone Subliminalpop
Ottima raccolta di racconti d'esordio (anche se per maturità di scrittura e narrazione non si direbbe), dove non uno dei singoli episodi è al di sotto del “molto buono” (i miei preferiti 'Luna di miele con nostalgia' e 'L'uomo più silenzioso').
C'è tanta Storia e tantissime storie in queste pagine, il lavoro dietro ogni vicenda si sente e, cosa ben più importante, arriva al lettore. Occhio attento, ma di ampie vedute, scrittura molto classica, al limite dell'impeccabile, che spazia nei luoghi e
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MashableReads: Favorite Quotations 2 19 Mar 24, 2014 11:21AM  
MashableReads: Favorite Story 1 16 Mar 24, 2014 08:53AM  
MashableReads: General 1 15 Mar 17, 2014 10:35AM  
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Molly Antopol’s debut story collection, The UnAmericans (W.W. Norton), won the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award, the French-American Prize, the Ribalow Prize and a California Book Award Silver Medal. The book was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award and was a finalist the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Barnes & Noble Disc ...more
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“But Benny was already walking through the doors and into the bright sunny day, pulling the bottle from his shirt and thrusting it at his father: terrified, astonished, ready for his love.” 3 likes
“Those moments at the dinner table, I felt as Sveta were teaching me something important: that I didn't need to make every opinion known, didn't need to be filterless, that sometimes the best thing was to sit quietly and smile and sip my wine.” 2 likes
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