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.

Virtual Tour

Welcome to the headquarters for the Quiet Americans Winter 2011 Blog Tour. When Quiet Americans was published in 2011, the blog tour helped me—and the book—connect with readers worldwide. Here’s how the tour worked.

Sometimes, the blog’s host conducted an interview with me. Sometimes, the blog host posted a review of or commentary about Quiet Americans. Sometimes, I wrote a guest post tailored to the host blog/blogger’s interests. Every tour stop was unique, with fresh content. Reader comments were warmly welcomed at each tour stop, and I checked in periodically at each blog to respond. A bonus: If readers were too busy on a given tour day to check an appearance, they could always come back here, where the links have provided a permanent archive. I am immensely grateful to all of the talented and generous bloggers who welcomed Quiet Americans and me to their virtual living-rooms. Please visit their wonderful blogs.

  • Monday, January 17: The tour began with a guest post for the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog series, which is shared with MyJewishLearning and The Forward‘s Arty Semite blog. Topic: “Jewish-American Literature as Multicultural Literature.”
  • Wednesday, January 19: Release day for Quiet Americans! And time for a second guest post—“A Birthday and An Anniversary: A Book and Its Inspiration”—on the Jewish Book Council’s blog.
  • Thursday, January 20: Our sojourn on the Jewish Book Council’s Author Blog series concluded with reflections on “Mark Twain, ‘Mishpocha,’ and Me”.
  • Friday, January 21: A contribution to the “Selling Shorts” short-story series on Ron Hogan’s Beatrice blog: “Erika Dreifus and Malamud’s ‘German Refugee'”.
  • Monday, January 24: John Griswold interviewed me for his blog, The Education of Oronte Churm.
  • Wednesday, January 26: I showed up on B.J. Epstein’s Brave New Words blog with a guest post: “Four Ways to Manage ‘Foreign Words’ in Fiction.”
  • Friday, January 28: Ellen Meeropol, herself immersed in the busy-ness that accompanies a book publication, took the time to review Quiet Americans for her Between the Lines blog.
  • Tuesday, February 1: Lisa Romeo, the writer behind the eponymous Lisa Romeo Writes, presented a Q&A focusing on individual stories in the collection—and offers a signed giveaway copy to one lucky commenter.
  • Wednesday, February 2-Monday, February 7: The Blog Tour took a week-long breather while I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs and give a reading at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. For details, please visit my News & Events page.
  • Tuesday, February 8: Veteran journalist Linda K. Wertheimer interviewed me for her Jewish Muse blog.
  • Thursday, February 10 and Friday, February 11: Thursday brought Part One of a two-day visit over on Lori Ann Bloomfield’s blog, The First Line. To start things off, Lori posted a review of Quiet Americans. The visit continued with a Q&A on Friday.
  • Friday, February 11: Over on The Quivering Pen, David Abrams hosted Quiet Americans for a “Friday Freebie.” (Click here to read Abrams’s remarkable review of the book.)
  • Monday, February 14: Jessica Handler welcomed me–and a guest post connected to writing on Jewish themes–to Swimming in the Trees.
  • Wednesday, February 16: I shared some thoughts on the experience writing about the same subject in different genres on Sage Cohen’s Path of Possibility.
  • Friday, February 18: Chloé Yelena Miller welcomed me to her blog for a Q&A.
  • Saturday, February 19:  Technically, they weren’t part of the blog tour, but our own two giveaways: one via Goodreads and the other via Facebook (the latter taking place via random selection of two people who “like” our page) concluded on this day.
  • Monday, February 21: Our tour neared its conclusion with an interview focused on historical fiction on John Vanderslice’s Creating Van Gogh.
  • Thursday, February 24: One final stop, on the Guide to Literary Agents blog, where you can read about “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far” in my journey as a writer.

Even after the tour ended, I was lucky to be interviewed about the book (and some other topics) several times.