The UnAmericans, a stunning exploration of characters shaped by the forces of history, is the debut work of fiction by Molly Antopol, a 2013 National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Honoree.
An absentee father, a former dissident from communist-era Prague, needles his adult daughter for details about her newly commissioned play when he fears it will cast him in an unflattering light. An actor, imprisoned during the Red Scare for playing up his communist leanings to get a part with a leftist film director, is shamed by his act when he reunites with his precocious young son. An Israeli soldier, forced to defend a settlement filled with American religious families, still pines for a chance to discover the United States for himself. A young Israeli journalist, left unemployed after America's most recent economic crash, questions her life path when she begins dating a middle-aged widower still in mourning for his wife. And in the book's final story, a tour de force spanning three continents and three generations of women, a young American and her Israeli husband are forced to reconsider their marriage after the death of her dissident art-collecting grandmother.
Again and again, Molly Antopol's deeply sympathetic characters struggle for footing in an uncertain world, hounded by forces beyond their control. Their voices are intimate and powerful and they resonate with searing beauty. Antopol is a superb young talent, and The UnAmericans will long be remembered for its wit, humanity, and heart.
The Old World
No one wants to listen to a man lament his solitary nightsmyself included. Which is why, on an early fall morning four months after Gail left, when a woman breezed into my shop with a pinstriped skirt in her arms and said, "On what day this can be ready?" I didn't write a receipt, tell her Tuesday and move on to the next customer. Instead I said, "Your accent. Russian?"
"The Jewel of the Baltic! I've read a lot about it," I said. "The art, the food, those ancient fishing villages!" On and on I wentthough I had not, in fact, read about it. I had, however, caught a television special once, but I remembered little more than twisted spires, dreary accordions, plates of pink fish, pocked and shiny.
"Ukraine," she said slowly, "is not on the Baltic." She had a wide pale face, full lips and short blond hair dyed the color of curry.
"Ah," I said, and swallowed.
But she didn't walk away. She squinted, as if trying to see ...
The UnAmericans powerfully shows what happens to everyday people when the moral compass they use to navigate their daily lives no longer points true north. Life can be a challenge without a good radar.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (928 words).
In "The Unknown Soldier," one of the stories in Molly Antopol's The UnAmericans, a young actor, Alexi Liebman, has to serve jail time because he comes under suspicion that he is a member of the American Communist party. This fictional account is based on very real events that took place in the United States.
Throughout the 1940s and 50s, Americans were growing increasingly worried about the spread of Communism in China and Eastern Europe. Espionage cases unearthed at home, where government officials had been convicted of sharing secrets with the "enemy," only compounded fears. The collective nervousness was enough to fuel mass hysteria around the "Red Scare."
It is in this environment that Senator Joseph McCarthy found an opening to...
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