On Mon­day, Eri­ka Drei­fus dis­cussed her upcom­ing pan­el at AWPBeyond Bagels and Lox.” She will be blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Author Blog.

Today is a spe­cial day: It’s the offi­cial pub date” for my debut short-sto­ry col­lec­tion, Qui­et Amer­i­cans, which is being released by Last Light Stu­dio, a new, Boston-based micropress.

It is also a spe­cial day on an even more per­son­al lev­el: It is the 70th anniver­sary of the date on which my pater­nal grand­par­ents, Ruth and Sam Drei­fus, Ger­man Jews who immi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States in the late 1930s and met here in Man­hat­tan, were married.

In this wed­ding pho­to­graph, my grand­par­ents are pic­tured front and cen­ter, cut­ting their cake. Although I can’t help being struck, as I always am when I look at this pho­to, by the many absences — of par­ents and sib­lings, aunts and uncles — and by the evi­dence that my grand­moth­er had no mon­ey to spare for a tra­di­tion­al wed­ding dress (the fan­cy cake might have been a ben­e­fit of my grandfather’s job as a bak­er), I’m equal­ly moved by the pres­ence of fam­i­ly and friends cel­e­brat­ing with the bridal cou­ple. For my grand­par­ents were, indeed, sur­round­ed by fam­i­ly and friends, includ­ing Rab­bi Her­bert Parzen, who offi­ci­at­ed that Jan­u­ary day in 1941 and per­formed my par­ents’ wed­ding cer­e­mo­ny 25 years lat­er as well.

Rab­bi Parzen (sec­ond from the left, stand­ing next to the bride) was fam­i­ly andfriend: His wife, Sylvia (front row, sec­ond from the right, beside the groom), was a cousin of my grandmother’s. As an Amer­i­can, Aunt Sylvia, as my sis­ter and I called her, helped facil­i­tate my grandmother’s immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States in 1938, just months before the Kristall­nacht. It was in New York that my grand­moth­er found her groom, who had emi­grat­ed from Ger­many the pre­vi­ous year.

In fact, my grand­par­ents met through anoth­er émi­gré present in this pho­to­graph: my great-uncle Berthold (“Bob,” seen in pro­file on the far left). My grand­moth­er had become friends with Bob, and when she went to his board­ing-house to pay him a get-well vis­it while he was recov­er­ing from pneu­mo­nia, my grand­fa­ther — Bob’s old­er broth­er — was there, too.

With­out the peo­ple you see in this pho­to­graph, then, many lives would have been dra­mat­i­cal­ly altered, and some (mine includ­ed) would not have come to be. With­out them, there would be no book, either, because Qui­et Amer­i­cans is inspired so pro­found­ly by the sto­ries that have come to me from my father’s fam­i­ly, and by my pre­oc­cu­pa­tions with the his­tor­i­cal lega­cy I have inher­it­ed as a grand­daugh­ter of two Jews who were lucky enough to escape Europe in time, and mar­ry in New York City sev­en­ty years ago today.

Eri­ka Drei­fus‘ first book, Qui­et Amer­i­cans, is now available.

Eri­ka Drei­fus’s lat­est book, Birthright: Poems, was pub­lished by Kel­say Books in Novem­ber 2019. Her short-sto­ry col­lec­tion Qui­et Amer­i­cans was named an Amer­i­can Library Association/​Sophie Brody Medal Hon­or Title for out­stand­ing achieve­ment in Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. An Adjunct Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Baruch Col­lege of The City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, Eri­ka is deeply engaged with and con­ver­sant in con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture, pub­lish­ing, and Jew­ish writ­ing. She is also the edi­tor and pub­lish­er of The Prac­tic­ing Writer, a free (and pop­u­lar) e‑newsletter that fea­tures oppor­tu­ni­ties and resources for fic­tion­ists, poets, and writ­ers of cre­ative nonfiction.