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Quiet Americans

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  46 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published January 19th 2011 by Last Light Studio (first published January 2011)
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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Barbara Stark-Nemon
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Erika Dreifus inhabits a little corner of a personal world that I do; a writer with a story of German Jewish grandparents who escaped the Holocaust and whose legacy lives strongly at our centers. From her robust and broad platform involving many other pursuits, Dreifus writes, reviews, collects and analyzes stories of that legacy, both from her own family and in the work of others. While by no means the only writer to engage in this topic, I have yet to come across another who does it with more ...more
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
For all its quietness, this book delivers a punch. Of the eight stories, the first four are superb. "Matrilineal Descent" is as good as, if not better than, anything I've read in the New Yorker. "For Services Rendered" deals with its main character's painful ambivalence about the highranking Nazi's wife in wartime and postwar Germany--the wife who effectively saved his family's life while watching her husband exterminate his extended family and six million others--in an extraordinarily delicate ...more
Dov Zeller
One goodreads reviewer opens his review, "Erika Dreifus’ debut collection, Quiet Americans, feels like a roll of film shot with an old camera...By this I mean that these stories are not of nostalgic objects and characters, but that they are told through a mechanism that infuses a sense of a different period’s tooling." I've been thinking about Jacob's (the reviewer) reference to film (in black and white), and to quietness. The whole question of where memory lies--in images, in voices, in objects ...more
Lee Mandel
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Quiet Americans" is a beautifully written book that is actually a collection of short stories. The common thread that ties the chapters together is the Holocaust. 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. Readers born soon after the Holocaust (as I was) or whose families were directly and tragically impacted by it (as mine was) can especially relate to the people that Erika Dreifus ...more
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 Se ...more
Pamela J
A powerful collection of short stories. While each vignette stands on its own, they all form a cohesive, striking portrait spanning several generations. Characters, like Dr. Weldmann, are faced with crucial decisions: to speak out or to stay silent. Dreifus's narrators may vary in point of view but they never fail to draw us in quickly. The narrator of "Matrilineal Descent" breaks through that fourth wall to speak to its readers who, like the narrator, may have researched their ancestors only to ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
This story collection focuses on several Jewish families living before, during and after the Holocaust. Most of the stories are interconnected.
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Erika Dreifus’ debut collection, Quiet Americans, feels like a roll of film shot with an old camera, not a 1970’s Nikon, but a prewar Leica II with a collapsible lens, a separate viewfinder and rangefinder, and a delicately hand-cut leader on the film so that the canister will load appropriately through the bottom of the camera body. By this I mean that these stories are not of nostalgic objects and characters, but that they are told through a mechanism that infuses a sense of a different period ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A quick, engaging read. But I think, in large part, the impetus to continue was with the conundrum these protagonists faced, rather than with their actual character development.

My favorite story might still be the first one, "For Services Rendered," involving the wife of a high up Nazi officer convincing her husband to get her Jewish doctor and his family out of Germany before it was too late. Years later, after they'd lost the rest of their families to the Shoah, the doctor struggled with his c
Colleen O'Neill Conlan
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I read this when it first came out and decided to reread it in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. It's always a treat to revisit a good collection of stories and see things I missed the first time around.

These stories are linked generationally and thematically around—but not specifically about—the Holocaust. More, I'd say they are about Jewish identity, and the long and deep scar of the Holocaust. In one story, "The Quiet American," there is a line about the narrator's only remembered German w
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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"); ...more
Christi Craig
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Why had he bothered to discuss this? Always, there had been so much about him she hadn't understood. Always, something about her heart had remained unyielding, beyond his comprehension. But that was the point. So much remained beyond his comprehension."
~ from "For Services Rendered

Erika Dreifus' collection of stories is aptly titled, as it is a quiet but powerful read. Her stories, like "For Services Rendered", reveal complex characters who unravel a mixture of complexities in their histories.
Some of the stories in Quiet Americans are connected and interrelated, but not all of them. Each individual story brings an in depth look into the minds and emotions of those who have struggled with the after-effects and after-affects of the Shoah/Holocaust, and those who have struggled with identity. Thought-provoking is an understatement in describing Quiet Americans. Each story is sensitively written, but filled with a quiet strength. Erika Dreifus has written an insightful and strong book, a ...more
Jennifer Solheim
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Quiet Americans is a series of short stories interconnected in that they relate the story of Eastern European Jewish families through several decades both before and after the Holocaust, both in Europe and in the United States, following the World War II and immigration. Particularly compelling to me about this collection is the luster of the every day lives of these families, which serve as the lens through which the reader experiences the lead-up to and aftermath of Nazi occupation, deportatio ...more
Jill Pertler
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Christine Wade
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I grew up in post-war Germany, as an American Foreign Service child, and the terrible mystery of what happened there for the generations before my arrival needs to be documented now that the silent decades are over. It is the work of the courageous and curious. Erika Dreifus’ stories are that. Legacies of shame and bravery are brought forward into the 21st Century in The Quiet Americans. Dreifus takes it on and writes nuanced tales of the transfer of difficult knowledge and emotion across genera ...more
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I know Erika Dreifus from her blogs and a short story that appeared on, but I had yet to read her book. I finally did, and I'm glad. Each tale in the story collection stands alone, but when read together helps develop the tale of American Jewry since the Holocaust. The standouts are the title tale "Quiet Americans" -- written adeptly in the 2nd person POV -- and the final one, "Mishpocha." I was also intrigued by the first story; I wondered how much of the story had a historica ...more
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Skilled storytelling with lots of heart. Erika Dreifus' characters face some of the most difficult challenges this world could throw at people. And in these well-drawn snapshots of the characters' lives, their responses draw each reader into the story to feel the reverberations in his or her own life. Containing aching loss and joy, these stories are both particular to Jewish history and contemporary culture, as well as universal. ...more
A Sophie Brody Medal honor title.

This little book of short stories is a gem that anyone can read and enjoy. Its straightforward writing and understandable stories about German Jews and their descendants bring us into the everyday lives of Jewish Americans. Some stories are interrelated, but they stand alone in their own right.

For the complete list of 2012 Sophie Brody honor titles, please visit RUSA Awards 2012
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Erika Dreifus’ "small" stories—tender, pitch perfect treatments of human strength and frailty—are little jewels occurring within the big events taking place in German-Jewish communities before and after World War II. If I have to pick a favorite story, it is “Lebensraum," on the strength of its staying with me. The book is a mere 162 pages with just seven stories, well worth the afternoon it will take to read. ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-lit
Normally I dismiss short story collections because they do not allow me to become involved in the characters and the plot. Quiet Americans was different. All the stories revolved around the individuals and families coping with life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The characters were real, multi-dimensional, and the stories moving. Like others, I look forward to reading more from this author.
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melyssa by: Betsy
I don't read a lot of short story collections because I have a hard time connecting with the characters over just a few pages. This collection was very moving because the author quickly makes the reader care about the people and their stories, which are really about identity, history and family ties. ...more
Amy Morgan
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, what a delightful read. The grace and elegance that Dreifus weaves through her stories and characters is first rate. This book came in the mail on Thursday. Friday evening after a long day, I sat down and read it cover to cover, unable to put it down. I look forward to the many times I am sure to read it again.
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful, evocative collection of linked stories dealing with people who have been intimately connected with--and affected by--the Holocaust. Sparely written, unsentimental, deeply moving and affecting.
Sharon Bially
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Quiet Americans is a gem of a book. It's rare to discover such a well-crafted and profound work of literature in in contemporary fiction. Its stories are beautifully crafted, delicate yet powerful. They took hold of me from page one, and stayed with me long after the end. ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Persons interested in the holocaust
Recommended to Nikki by: Won on a Goodreads Giveaway
Finished this book rather quickly - it's a short read but keeps you captivated throughout. While they are individual short stories within, they each at some point intertwine with another. Will definitely pass along to my younger relatives who are learning and discussing the holocaust. ...more
Shelf Magazine
Shelf Unbound talks with Erika Dreifus about her new book of short stories, Quiet Americans,published by Last Light Studio in the June/July 2011 issue. ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Erika Dreifus is a fabulous writer. I loved these stories and they deserve to be read. And Dreifus deserves a lot of literary love for these gems.

Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc-read
I won this book through Goodreads. This was a really good book. Very poignant and heartwarming.
Joe Kraus
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-american
Glass breaks easily. It’s whole one moment, and then it shatters. That’s a small part of what Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass that in many ways marked the beginning of the Holocaust – represented: a breaking that could never be put together again.

Erika Dreifus’s remarkable linked collection of short stories focuses on that facet of what the Holocaust meant. In the wake of so much breakage, so many things torn into pieces, it falls to the second and third generations to make sense of th
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Erika Dreifus's latest book (and first poetry collection) is titled Birthright, published by Kelsay Books in November 2019.

Erika is also the author of a story collection, Quiet Americans, which was published by Last Light Studio and named a 2012 Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title (for "outstanding Jewish literature"). The book was also recognized as a Top Small-Press Book (Shelf Unbound) and Notable B

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