Author Erika Dreifus sets the groundwork for Quiet Americans with two essential quotations. “It doesn’t end. Never will it end,” observed Günter Grass. Asked Imre Kertész: “Which writer today is not a writer of the Holocaust?”
In this engaging debut collection, the Holocaust is indeed omnipresent. Though often unacknowledged and out of sight, it deeply informs Erika Dreifus’s deceptively calm short stories. The prose style throughout is intimate and carefully observed. Several of the stories are interconnected. They range in time and setting from tiny Altheim at the edge of the Black Forest, in 1914, to Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the present century. Dreifus ably interweaves the events of everyday Jewish life, including births, parenthood, ritual circumcision, postpartum depression, grandparenthood, family squabbles, with aptly selected period details: an online genealogy site, Shabbos elevators, the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, DP camps, sonograms, Starbucks, invidious anti- Semitism in the spiel of a Stuttgart tour guide, even a Zabar’s mug.