Reviews & Press

Quiet Americans was published on January 19, 2011. On this page, you will find reviews/press coverage (the most recent coverage appears first).

  • Quiet Americans is a Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for 2012: “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.”
  • Quiet Americans is a Jewish Journal “Notable Book” of 2011: “History, as James Joyce once wrote, is a nightmare from which we struggle to awaken. But literary journalist Erika Dreifus is courageous enough to confront the terrors from deep within that nightmare in her debut work of fiction, ‘Quiet Americans’ (Last Light Studio: $13.95), a deeply affecting collection of short stories that contemplate how the long shadow of the Holocaust falls across the lives of men and women who come alive in her work.”
  • “Dreifus writes with incredible emotional nuance and empathy,” says Shelf Unbound in explaining why Quiet Americans is a Top 10 Book of 2011.
  • “Very quietly written, sensitive and moving,” is how Ellen Rocco, North Country Public Radio station manager and co-host Readers & Writers, describes Quiet Americans in her Winter Reading List recommendation.
  • “This debut collection of short stories is the first book I started and finished in 2011 and even back in January, I knew it stood a good chance of making my year-end ‘best’ list,” writes The Quivering Pen’s David Abrams, in situating Quiet Americans within his “Best Books of 2011” list.
  • Bookseller Elli Meeropol (Odyssey Bookshop) explains why Quiet Americans is her “staff favorite” for 2011: “…because these seven stories are bighearted, understated, and full of surprises; they are about generosity and forgiveness as well as atrocity and survival.”
  • “Dreifus’s stories are both personal and illuminating….The issues and themes will resonate particularly with readers of Jewish ancestry who may recognize bits of their own families in the stories, but can well be appreciated by any reader who likes fiction that considers history, heritage and identity,” says the BooksPersonally blog, which also published this Q&A with Erika.
  • “This book doesn’t just feel authentic, it feels alive. A mix of beautiful writing, important subject matter and characters to care about beyond the stories…” according to The Short Review‘s Sarah Salway. (See an interview with Erika on The Short Review site, too.)
  • Erika and Quiet Americans are featured on The Story Prize blog.
  • “Shelf Unbound talks with Erika Dreifus about her new book of short stories, Quiet Americans.” (Shelf Unbound; includes book excerpt).
  • “In conversation with Anne Stameshkin, debut author Erika Dreifus shares true stories that inspired her collection, Quiet Americans; wonders when it’s kosher for authors to write characters from backgrounds they don’t share; explores how reviewing books makes us better fiction writers; and recommends favorite novels and collections by 21st-century Jewish authors.” (Fiction Writers Review).
  • “Dreifus’s clear, direct style and her subject matter bring to mind the stories of Jhumpa Lahiri….Dreifus does an excellent job of taking the much-written-about subject of the Holocaust and presenting stories that add new complexities to the topic,” writes Rebecca Henderson for Englewood Review of Books.
  • “Many of the deceptively subdued stories in Dreifus’ first book pack an amazing wallop….Dreifus is definitely a writer to watch,” writes Rabbi Rachel Esserman for The Reporter.
  • For Short Story Month (May 2011), Dan Wickett spotlights the title story of Quiet Americans, “The Quiet American, Or How to Be A Good Guest”—and its use of second-person narration—for the Emerging Writers Network.
  • “In this engaging debut collection, the Holocaust is…omnipresent. Though often acknowledged and out of sight, it deeply informs Erika Dreifus’s deceptively calm short stories,” says Jewish Book World‘s Judith Felsenfeld, in the JBW‘s Spring 5771/2011 issue.
  • For “Fictionaut Five: Erika Dreifus,” interviewer Meg Pokrass asks about mentoring and more.
  • Quiet Americans is the Fiction Writers Review Book of the Week! (February 1-8, 2011)
  • Midwest Book Review calls Quiet Americans “an intriguing and insightful read.”
  • “I’ve got to tell you about this book,” says reviewer Ellen Meeropol. (And people are listening: Author Randy Susan Meyers cites this review in explaining why Quiet Americans is a book she “can’t wait to dig into.”)
  • “Anyone with an interest in the Holocaust and how it led immigrants to this country needs to read this book. Anyone who simply wants to enjoy engaging, relevant, and thoughtful fiction by a subtle practitioner of the craft needs to read it even more,”writes John Vanderslice, “The Quiet Beauty of Quiet Americans,” Creating Van Gogh.
  • “Patti Kenner Hosts Reception for Author Erika Dreifus’s ‘Quiet Americans: Stories’,” The Forward (second story on the page).
  • “[Dreifus is] a classic storyteller and there’s a clear, direct line from Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud to her 21st-century keyboard,” according to David Abrams, The Quivering Pen.
  • “So Dreifus does not confine herself to the kind of character studies and slice-of-life sketches that are the stock-in-trade of so many short-story writers. Rather, she cares deeply about history — her own family history and the larger history that we all inhabit — and that’s what makes her stories both engaging and consequential,” writes The Jewish Journal’s Jonathan Kirsch
  • Ever wonder how a book gets its cover? Read this “Book Design Case Study: Short Stories by Erika Dreifus” on
  • Quiet Americans is “Recommended Reading,”  in the Jewish Book Council’s Weekly E-Newsletter
  • “Dreifus has an exquisite sensibility for the absurd, for the paradoxes and accidents of history,” writes reviewer Anne Whitehouse for Gently Read Literature.

Please see also reader reviews on,, and Goodreads.

Notes on the 50th Anniversary of the Munich Massacre

September 2022

One of the stories in my collection Quiet Americans, “Homecomings,” has recently been re-published. Set in 1972, it’s a story that combines some family history (yes, my own great-grandmother died early that year; and yes, some months thereafter, my German-Jewish-born grandparents returned to Europe for the first time after having fled in the late 1930s; and yes, my younger sister was born not too long after that) with a searing historical event: the terrorist attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics, which began in the early morning hours of September 5. (If you need a refresher on this subject, you might also check my 2012 review of a nonfiction book about it.)

I wrote the first draft of “Homecomings” about 20 years ago, when I was an MFA student. (I’ve also written about the experience of workshopping the story.) It’s a story for which I won a deeply meaningful prize. It has never before been published online, and I’m immensely grateful to Moment magazine for wanting to share it with readers as we note the somber 50th anniversary of what is often remembered as the “Munich Massacre.”

One final note: Careful readers may notice that the online version of the story has been tweaked just a little bit from what’s printed in Quiet Americans, something I feel a bit less ambivalent about after catching some online validation for the practice of never-ending revision.

Thank you for taking a moment to join me in honoring the memories of the slain.

image of the 11 members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team and the West German policement who were murdered in September 1972.
Screenshot taken from Munich ‘72 and Beyond, an account “of the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Summer Olympics” in September 1972. This image depicts the 11 Israelis (Amizur Shapira, Ze’ev Friedman, Moshe Weinberg, Yossef Romano, Kehat Shorr, Yossef Guttfreund, Yakov Springer, [American-born] David Berger, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, and Eliezer Halfin) as well as the West German policeman (Anton Fliegerbauer) who was also killed. May their memories always be a blessing.

A version of this piece was published in the September 2022 issue of The Practicing Writer 2.0.

Buy Autographed Copy

Thank you so much for your interest in Quiet Americans: Stories.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can do so on this page, and if you’d like an autograph and/or personalized message inscribed, you can specify that below. (Please note: At this time, books can be shipped to U.S. addresses only.)

Autograph Instructions

Of course, you can also buy Quiet Americans from or Barnes & Noble. For independent bookstores, check IndieBound.

Quiet Americans is also available as an e-book for the Kindle, Nook, and iPad.

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, portions of the proceeds from book sales are being donated to The Blue Card, which assists U.S.-based survivors of Nazi persecution.

For Book Clubs

Thank you so much for your interest in Quiet Americans!

Erika Dreifus would be delighted to connect with your book club by phone, Skype, or Zoom. If your group has six or more participants, you may sign up to have Erika join your discussion of Quiet Americans.

To sign up, please contact Erika via this website, with the words “Book Club” in your subject line. In your message, please indicate: 1) the number of people in your group and 2) the location/time zone where the discussion will take place.

Please also give three potential dates and times when Erika might join your discussion (again, please specify the time zone). Erika will do her best to honor your first-choice selection.

Please plan to have your group discuss the book first; Erika will join your discussion for 30 minutes to answer your questions. Please keep this in mind when you list the time(s) you’d like her to call/join in–the times that you suggest should correspond to when you would like her to call in, not the initial meeting-time for the group.

Whether you’ll be inviting Erika to join you or not, here are some questions that you may find helpful in guiding your group’s discussion of Quiet Americans.

General Questions:

  • Which characters seem to you to most resemble “Quiet Americans”? How does their “quietness” affect plot points and/or other characters in their respective stories? On the other hand, are there characters that impress you as decidedly “unquiet”? What is their impact?
  • Which character(s) do you feel closest to? Why?
  • In many respects, the stories in Quiet Americans are “Jewish” stories. They feature Jewish characters and families; they incorporate Jewish ritual and Hebrew and Yiddish words; they are attentive to Israel; and in drawing inspiration from the author’s own family history—particularly the experiences of her paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s—they are, in a sense, an authorial response to the Judaic imperative to remember (zachor). Are these stories Jewish in any other ways? What is their accessibility to or relevance for readers who aren’t Jewish?

Questions on Specific Stories:

  • In “For Services Rendered,” we learn that Klara Weldmann had “wanted to leave Germany for years, already. [Ernst] was the one reluctant to abandon the land of his ancestors.” Later, in “Mishpocha,” a member of the Second Generation online discussion group to which David Kaufmann belongs wonders why his own father’s family didn’t flee “when the Germans were on their doorstep” and receives this response from another participant: “‘It was their home. What can move you to leave your home?” Can you imagine any circumstances that might compel you to leave your home(land)? What might they be?
  • “Matrilineal Descent” concludes with the information that Emma Gross was “für tot erklärt seit 30 Oktober 1940,” or assumed dead since the day she was deported (to an extermination camp). How did you react to the news of this character’s fate?
  • Why might the author have chosen “Lebensraum” to title a story set in Iowa in 1944?
  • A significant portion of “Homecomings” involves the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. If you remember this event, what are your recollections? If you know the history only through books, films, etc., how does the portrayal in “Homecomings” compare?
  • “Floating” is the first of the stories in Quiet Americans to be set in the 21st century, and unlike the three stories that precede it, “Floating” does not include members of the Freiburg family among its characters. How does “Floating” connect—thematically or otherwise—with the rest of the book? In a broader sense, how do the seven stories work as distinct and individual pieces, and how do they work combined to form a single book?
  • In “The Quiet American, Or How to Be a Good Guest,” a Jewish-American granddaughter of refugees from Nazi Germany travels to her grandparents’ native country in the summer of 2004. She reflects: “You are an American. You are a grown-up. What’s to worry about? Even now, even this summer of 2004, when your own homeland needs security, and every time you watch the news you’re afraid you’ll hear about another suicide bombing on a bus in Israel.” What do these sentiments suggest about complexities of Jewish-American identity in the 21st century?
  • Mishpocha” concludes with David Kaufmann reaching out to a newly-discovered genetic relative. What do you envision happening after David’s message is received? (If you’d like, why not try to write the next scene?)

Thank you again for your interest in Quiet Americans. If you’re so inclined, please share your thoughts about the book in a review on,, or your book site of choice. Help others learn about Quiet Americans, and encourage them to read the book!

The Blue Card

Mr. and Mrs. Dreifus prepare to cut their cake: Jan. 19, 1941.

All of the stories in Quiet Americans are in some way influenced by the experiences of my paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s, and/or by my own identity and preoccupations as a member of the “Third Generation.” (I’ve written fairly extensively about “3G” literary expression, including an essay that opens this book.)

George Wolf, Director of Marketing for The Blue Card, describes the organization’s history, mission, and current projects at a party for QUIET AMERICANS: January 19, 2011.

Given this background, I decided a long time ago that if this book ever saw publication, I would give over some of the profits to The Blue Card, an organization my family has supported for years. The Blue Card’s purpose is to assist survivors of Nazi persecution in the United States. Our family has been blessed in this country in so many ways, and one of the greatest blessings is that my grandparents were able to live their final years in comfort and dignity. Sadly, not everyone who survived Nazi persecution is so fortunate. That is why The Blue Card is so important, and why I am so grateful to have this opportunity to support it.