Commentary
5:00 am
Mon January 27, 2014

'UnAmericans' Is Masterful And Messy

Named by the National Book Foundation as one of five authors under 35 to watch, Molly Antopol has distinguished herself as master of the short story in her debut collection The UnAmericans: Stories.

Antopol’s stories are mostly of American immigrants relocating for political reasons, but are not familiar tropes of an immigrant story. The humanity and vulnerability show how the universal dynamics of family and romantic love are equally nurturing, distancing, tender and messy.

In “Duck and Cover,” Judy works in an L.A. diner where her father sits in the same booth and has the same conversations every day. He imagines this scenario in perpetuity while Judy can only think about getting out. A rebellious action designed to get her father’s attention is stultified when the police raid the diner to arrest her father for un-American activity. Judy watches as he passes by, hands clasped in cuffs. She remains invisible-- as she has always been.

Daniela, in “The Quietest Man,” has her play accepted for production in New York City. Her father, Tomas, deeply fears the family story will be of his failures as a family man and father. When the perspective of the play is revealed, Tomas is relieved, then rattled, by Daniela’s heartbreaking need to be an integral part of the story of his dissident years. Sometimes closeness is best achieved in the lies we tell ourselves and others.

Molly Antopol is, indeed one to watch. Her characters come alive in a few words, they connect with a single exchange, and they live long in the reader’s mind after the final, masterful, sentence.