Quiet Americans by Erika Dreifus

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 just as terrorists massacre Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. A son of survivors and the family secrets modern technology may reveal. These are some of the characters and conflicts that emerge in Quiet Americans, in stories that reframe familiar questions about what is right and wrong, remembered and repressed, resolved and unending. 

Visit Erika Dreifus’s website for more. 

 Below you can find the Twitter discussion of Quiet Americans with author Erika Dreifus that took place April 12, 2011. Make sure to follow Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook) for more Twitter Book Club events!


JewishBook: All right, time to start! Welcome, everyone! Thanks for joining us @erikadreifus #jbcbooks

erikadreifus: Quick note for my followers: Many tweets coming 4 awhile while I talk about QUIET AMERICANS for the @JewishBook Council!#JBCBooks Join us!

JewishBook: We'll ask the first question, then anyone else can chime in!#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook I'm thrilled to be here! #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus We were intrigued by the structure of the book. Some stories are linked, some aren't... How did you come to it?#JBCBooks

elesscom: Do you come to your stories organically. (thru family history,eg) or do they come to you @erikadreifus #jbcbooks

erikadreifus: The stories were written over time, with other stories (not included in the collection) written in-between. Ultimately... #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: I selected the stories that cohered as a book AND seemed individually strong. That meant that I included #JBCBooks

BookGal102: What about the order of the stories? How did you come to that#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: only some stories that linked a family of characters, and others that were separate. But thematically, they all (I hope) connect.#JBCBooks

elesscom: Hey followers: I'm in tweet chat abt @erikadreifus's Quiet Americans. Join us #jbcbooks May hv lots of tweets w this short story writer

erikadreifus: @elesscom Great question. Both situations occur. Also, sometimes both situations combine--I get an idea and then... #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @elesscom ...something in the family history connects with that idea as well. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 Also a great question! You'll notice that the first three stories take place before or during WWII. The last three...#JBCBooks

nycbook: these stories all appeared in different magazines. Were they written at one time, or separately, over long stretches of time? #JBCbooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus specific examples from the stories? #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 ...take place in the early 21st century. Middle story is set in the middle--1972. So there is a semi-chronol. thread.#JBCBooks

katcop13: I enjoy the use of 2nd person in The Quiet American, or How to Be a Good Guest. Did u experiment w 3rd, or knew 2nd was way to go#JBCBooks

elesscom: what is appeal of short stories vs other "formats" from writer's POV. Have you experimented w other fiction formats @erikadreifus#jbcbooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook Thanks for noticing that! The "oldest" in the book I began drafting in fall 2001. The "newest" one I finished in 2010.#JBCBooks

BookGal102: Interesting @erikadreifus Makes perfect sense #JBCBooks

JewishBook: Good question! @katcop13 #JBCBooks we wondered, too

erikadreifus: @jewishbook About the combination? Well, in "Floating," the pregnancy storyline mirrored things happening in our family#JBCBooks

BookGal102: re: “Matrilineal Descent” -sharp contrast btwn concerns of before vs the concerns of Holocaust...#JBCBooks

BookGal102:....What were you trying to achieve with this story? What questions were you trying to set up for your reader? #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook ...but I was also really motivated by the Poet Laureate situation in N.J. at the time. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @katcop13 Thanks, K! I don't recall--if I experimented, not for long. It was interesting, b/c when I began sending that story out#JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus oh, really interesting! #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @katcop13 some editors (more than 1!) wrote back, great story, but I just don't like the 2nd person POV. #JBCBooks

nycbook: similar q..in “Matrilineal Descent”, there is a shift in narrative style. What made you decide to address the reader in places? #jbcbooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 Oh, so tough via Twitter! Partly dealing with unanswered family hist questions about my grandfather's mother, who died #JBCBooks

katcop13: They missed the boat on that one! It's awesome. You did a fantastic job with 2nd person in that story :-) #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 the summer after he was born, just b/f WWI. And wondering about her family, including the sister I knew had "cared"#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 for my grandfather & his sister. Her name *was* Emma, and she *is* listed in the records as in the story's conclusion. #JBCBooks

BookGal102: Interesting. I thought the story was fantastic. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @katcop13 That's sweet! Well, it did get published...just took awhile! #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: Just want to make sure I haven't missed questions--I see you, @nycbook, you're next! #JBCBooks

elesscom: Is the mkt for stories good now, or overcrowded by bloggers who seek new outlets? What are you reading now? Next? @erikadreifus#jbcbooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook Such a good question! (I've wondered about it myself!) I don't know. I started that story in 2003, and if Goodreads#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook had existed then, maybe I could connect 2 sthg else I was reading at the time? I just don't know. Wrote itself that way!#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 Thank you! #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @elesscom Outlets: Depends. Definitely more outlets are out there. But if you want/need to get paid, that's another thing. #JBCBooks

BookGal102: What do you see as the responsibility of the second generation in relation to the Holocaust, Judaism, parents, etc.? ... #JBCBooks

BookGal102: ...At what point do you let go? Can you ever? #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @elesscom Just finished reading Jehanne Dubrow's #poetrycollection, HARDSHIP POST. Parts are about Poland & Holocaust legacy. #JBCBooks

katcop13: Join the live chat hosted by @JewishBook with author @erikadreifusabout her book, QUIET AMERICANS #writing #shortstories#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @elesscom And next: I am eager to read a book I am reviewing for @JewishBook World! Can't tell you the title just yet ;-). #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus :) #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 Oh, what a question. I am just finishing an essay about several other authors whose grandparents encountered#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 Nazi persecution. So the "third generation" is much on my mind. Stay tuned w/my blog/Twitter & I'll share the link#JBCBooks

BookGal102: I certainly will! #JBCBooks

nycbook: @erikadreifus does it mean to be a Quiet American? What does it mean to be a good guest? Is this a condemnation or a hope? both?#jbcbooks

BookGal102: P.S. Any connection btwn your book and The Quiet American (Greene) #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus Could you speak a little about the Blue Card Fund? How did you find out abt them? #JBCBooks

JewishBook: http://j.mp/hoFvfy #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook I think that a "good guest" doesn't cause trouble. Helps out. Is enthusiastic. All the things parents teach us, right?#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @nycbook But in the book, I think the "Quiet Americans" in the stories are quiet for a variety of reasons. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook Thanks for asking abt The Blue Card. I found out about them from my sister, who moved to NYC right after college &#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook became involved with the org., which provides assistance, esp. $, to financially-needy Holocaust survivors in the U.S. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook As many of you may know, too many survivors are aging in terrible poverty. Here, and in Israel. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook I was really happy to send out my first book-sales donation to The Blue Card this month. #JBCBooks

BookGal102: I have one more Q: What are you saying about the future? Acceptance from other faiths (Chaplain + bris) in contrast to persecution.#JBCBooks

BookGal102: -- Holocaust, Munich Olympics, 9/11 as Jewish conspiracy.#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 I get that question sometimes! I don't see one, but Greene's title sure stayed with me and I remembered #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus Nice...it seems like such a wonderful arrangement, so great to see a good book support a good cause #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 a fwriting teacher, Arnost Lustig z'l, declaring that titles could not be copyrighted! So I had freedom there. #JBCBooks

nycbook: RT @JewishBook: @erikadreifus such a wonderful arrangement, so great to see a good book support a good cause #JBCBookshttp://j.mp/hoFvfy

erikadreifus: @bookgal102 If I'd have to sum up, there is good & there is bad. Shades of gray always. Sometimes the gray is darker or lighter.#JBCBooks

BookGal102: Thanks, Erika! And thanks @JewishBook #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: Have I missed any questions? #JBCBooks

JewishBook: And our last question: were there any books that esp. inspired Quiet Americans? Any recommended reads for us? #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook Thank you! Of course, the more sales there are, the more support I can provide! ;-) #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook Well, several background texts, of course. But when I think of other short stories that mine some similar territory#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook I have 3 to offer: S. Nayman, AWAKE IN THE DARK; M. Singer, THE PALE OF SETTLEMENT; T. Rosenbaum, ELIJAH VISIBLE. #JBCBooks

katcop13: Is there one particular story in QUIET AMERICANS that is your "favorite"? They're all great :-) #JBCBooks

JewishBook: @erikadreifus Great, thank you! #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @katcop13 Thanks again, K. By the time I began writing stories, only my grandmother was still living. For Chanukah 2001, I gave#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @katcop13 her a draft of "Lebensraum." So she did get to see that story, in some form. And that makes it very special to me.#JBCBooks

katcop13: I understand why it would have a special place in your heart. Thanks for sharing that with us. I'm sure she was very proud of you!#JBCBooks

elesscom: Concur re @erikadreifus re Shira Nayman's Awake in the Dark#jbcbooks She also shares title, btw: @ebertchicago has a movie bk by that name!

profwriter189: @erikadreifus Wanted to know whether you always had the book in mind when writing the stories #JBCBooks

profwriter189: @erikadreifus And how much being in Europe contributed?#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @profwriter189 Well, from the start I hoped one day I'd have *a* story collection. I didn't necessarily anticipate *this* one.#JBCBooks

elesscom: Eager to return to @erikadreifus book Quiet Amercans. #jbcbookschat has me even more intrigued than the 1 story I devoured last night.

erikadreifus: @profwriter189 Being in Europe absolutely helped, in all sorts of ways. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @elesscom Thank you so much! I hope that they all live up to that first one! #JBCBooks

JewishBook: Thank you again, @erikadreifus. And big thank you to all who participated! Good questions #JBCBooks

profwriter189: @erikadreifus Can you say more about the European influence?#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @jewishbook GREAT questions! Thanks to all, & special thanks to @JewishBook 4 the great work to support all of us readers/writers.#JBCBooks

katcop13: Thanks @JewishBook for hosting ~ what a pleasure to chat with @erikadreifus & others about Quiet Americans #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @profwriter189 OK, one last response. In many ways diffuse, but a few concrete: 1) Stuttgart story would not exist w/o my visit#JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @profwriter189 Arnost Lustig influenced in ways broad & precise. See my @JewishBook blog post on this. #JBCBooks

erikadreifus: @profwriter And of course, returning to my grandparents' hometowns played a big part, esp. in "Homecomings" #JBCBooks