The university is proud to announce the release of Augustana Writer-in-Residence and Professor of English Dr. Patrick Hicks’ novel entitled, Across the Lake, published by SFA Press and distributed by Texas A & M University Press. The launch of the book is set to take place at the 21st annual South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood, South Dakota, on Sept. 22-24.
Set in the only all-female concentration camp in Nazi Germany, Across the Lake is a story of survival amid overwhelming brutality. With a keen eye toward historical accuracy, Hicks’ latest novel is an unflinching portrayal of how prisoners supported each other while holding onto their humanity. This is also a story of the female guards — the Aufseherin — who were every bit as vicious as the SS (Schutzstaffel) in Buchenwald, Dachau and Auschwitz. What did it mean to be a woman in a concentration camp like Ravensbrück? Across the Lake is an unforgettable depiction of gender and violence in the Holocaust.
As Svea Fischer struggles to survive yet another day, she has to forget her past and endure the brutal reality swirling around her. Meanwhile, a new guard, Anna Hartmann, enters Ravensbrück and sees not horror, but opportunity. As the story unfolds, these two women find their futures inextricably tied together. Told with historical insight, Across the Lake explores a concentration camp that was totally unique in the Third Reich.
“When we think about the Holocaust, it's usually through a very gendered lens, and I wanted to explore what it meant to be a woman in a concentration camp,” noted Hicks, also the author of In the Shadow of Dora, The Collector of Names, Adoptable, This London and the critically and popularly acclaimed novel, The Commandant of Lubizec. “I spent several nights at Ravensbrück and even slept in the former female guards' barracks. In fact, the crematorium was only 100 yards away from me. It was a surreal experience.”
Hicks, the radio host of “Poetry from Studio 47,” is the author of more than 10 books and his work has appeared on NPR, “The PBS Newshour” and “American Life in Poetry.” His first novel was among only 20 books selected for National Reading Group Month and listed as a Top Pick for First Year College Programs. Hicks has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize and won the Glimmer Train Fiction Award. Hicks was recently a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, Screencraft Cinematic Book Award, Steinberg Essay Prize, as well as an Emmy Award.
The former visiting fellow at the University of Oxford has received several grants, including those from the Bush Artist Foundation, Loft Literary Center, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Across the Lake was made possible in part due to more than $10,000 in funding. Hicks received grants from the South Dakota Arts Council and Augustana University.
“Without this funding, the novel wouldn’t be as historically accurate, and it would also mean that I couldn’t see the camp in my imagination. If I can’t see the camp, it can’t come alive in the reader’s imagination,” said Hicks.
Hicks, a Stillwater, Minnesota, native, received his undergraduate degree in his home state and completed graduate work in Chicago, Illinois. For years, Hicks lived in Northern Ireland, Germany and Spain, earning his second Masters degree from Queen’s University Belfast and Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in England. Since 2007, Hicks has been Augustana’s Writer-in-Residence, and has taught courses on creative writing, Irish literature, as well as honors courses, including “The Holocaust: The Citizen & The State.” He is also a faculty member in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the University of Nevada Reno at Lake Tahoe.