The Silk Factory

by Michael Hickins ’86 (CC ’83)

Published by Amsterdam Publishers (2023)

Acclaimed former journalist Michael Hickins wondered why he seemed doomed to repeat the same pattern of failed marriages and unhappy children. Then came an email from a nephew he knew nothing about -- one that led him to new insights into his family’s life during the Holocaust, the discovery that the silk factory taken from his family by the Nazi government was still in operation, and about the heroism of a French small-town mayor who saved his father’s life. What once seemed like fuzzy anecdotes about the Holocaust came into sharper focus and helped explain why his parents behaved the way they did, laying the foundation for his own behaviors and misadventures.

A powerful examination of the past in light of the present, The Silk Factory is as much an autobiographical descent into the generational trauma induced by history as it is a memoir of the Holocaust itself. Sparked by an email from a nephew he didn’t even know existed, Hickins, a former journalist turned marketing flak, learns of the existence of a silk factory that once belonged to his family before being expropriated by the Nazi government, relives the death of people he never met, and comes to learn of the heroism of Paul Mirat, the mayor of a small village in France who saves his father’s life along with hundreds of others. Hickins is also forced to confront his own patterns of misbehaviors as he tries to raise a young child free of the blood and guilt of the past.