“Felice’s Worlds” by Henry Massie



Felice Massie was a student in France, caught up in the horrors of Naziism when she was 20 years old.  Cut off by the war from her family living in a small village in Poland, she shifted from one country to another attempting to find a home for herself and a means to rescue her parents, brother and sister.  As the Holocaust descended on her shtetl, she arrived penniless in America.  Over time she raised a family and amassed one of foremost collections of American modern art.  Her boldness and resilience became a beacon of hope and inspiration for others.


 Reviews from Others:

“Henry Massie never blinks as he creates an astonishing chronicle of a life in diaspora. Only a son could capture this passionate spirit, who escaped both Adolf Hitler and Joe McCarthy.” –Patty Friedmann, author of TOO JEWISH

“Henry Massie’s FELICE’S WORLDS is a labor of love in more ways than one.  A daughter of the 20th century, Felice Massie’s journey is both a personal odyssey and a window on some of the most important events in political history and the modern art world.  It’s also the story of a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time in many notable ways.  Although there are heartbreaks along the way, Massie also captures his mother’s sense of humor and most of all, her remarkable coming of age in Europe, Palestine and America.  This is a book you’ll want to share with your friends and gift to everyone who appreciates the skills of a wonderful writing talent.  Don’t miss it.” —

Roger Rapoport, author of Hillsdale: A Greek Tragedy in America’s Heartland, and journalist,  The Frequent Flyer.


A Note From the Author:

I had listened to my mother’s tales all my life and wanted to share them. She was an escapee from a Polish shtetl wiped out by the Nazis, a high-school political activist in Lithuania, a university student in France who lost her first love tragically, a partisan for Arab-Jewish co-existence in Palestine who was caught in the first intifada in 1936, and a penniless arrival to America in 1937.

Yet when she died she had amassed one of the most important collections of Modern Art in the world and was a university lecturer on the subject.

In writing about her, I understood for the first time how her experience of losing loved ones to the Nazis had been passed on to her American son.

But as a psychiatrist, I was drawn to Felice’s story because it shows so much resilience in the face of terrible emotional trauma. Her life dramatizes how just keeping on through days of having nothing but a belief that “someday I will have something,” can be a powerful survival tool.

– Henry Massie



Henry Massie is a psychiatrist, award-winning author, and pioneering researcher in the field of autism. FELICE’S WORLDS–From the Holocaust to the Halls of Modern Art, is the a memoir and biography of his mother, a brilliant and beautiful woman who participated in many of the most critical periods of the 20th Century.



1)  First of all, please tell us a special something about what makes you “tick.”  When you aren’t writing, what are you doing.


When I’m not solving my fictional characters’ problems or recreating real people’s lives on paper, I’m in my office consulting with patients, trying to help them solve problems in real life.  I’m a psychiatrist.  And when doing none of the above, I may be walking with my dog on Goat Rock beach in northern California.


2)  You chose a specific genre, a place and time to write about, what made you choose it?


The genre chose me.  Felice’s Worlds is a biography of my mother, in a sense her memoir.  It is often in the very words she used to tell me about her life and adventures during some of the critical periods of the 20th century.  It is also a double-memoir about how her brilliance, boldness and emotional burdens affected me.  Her story was dying to be told.


Currently I am working in the very different genre of a highly fictionalized account of how somebody I knew was influenced by his friendship with Marilyn Monroe when he was in high-school and she was in her thirties, in the two years before her death.  It is called Prom Date.  I fell into writing it because of my fascination with people’s desires and dreams and how they turn out.


3)  Please share with your readers where you like to write. Do you have a particular space or desk?  What can you see from your desk?  Do you have props you use to write from?  What about special “charms?”


I have three desks:  one in my office where I keep charts and so forth, one in a study in my house in Berkeley where I pay bills, and one at my cabin near Guerneville, California, near where the RussianRiver flows into the Pacific Ocean.  The desk at the cabin is where I do my writing.  I need to escape from the city desks to the cabin to be creative.  “Living on the river,” as people say, is to live in another world that fosters fantasies.  From my desk there I see three redwood trees reaching to the sky, climbing so high that I can’t even see their tops if I put my face to the window and peer up.  My desk is completely cluttered with paper, clippings, and notes to myself.  My two desks back in town are neat and orderly.  The trees outside my window are my writing totems.


4)  In your opinion, what makes a book a great one?


A great book has to suck me into it like a whirlpool.  After a spell of reading, the characters and their dilemmas in a great book make me feel so tense that I need to put the book down and get some breathing space.  The language and imagery has to be alive and poetic.  I don’t think books that obsess over little details and tiny shades of meaning and feeling are great (I call them dandelion cottage books) even though many critics adore them.


5)  Which author(s) most influenced your love of books from childhood?


Starting in about fourth grade I read every Hardy Boy adventure that came out.  They still influence my writing.  In sixth grade I switched to a series of books about American history for young people.  They taught me about real people and events.  My interest in character developed in high school when I started reading Faulkner.  My favorite was his novella The Bear.


7)  Please share with us the underlying message of your book.  What would you like your readers to take away after having read the book?


There are several themes running through Felice’s Worlds:  1) War endures through millennia in the land called Palestine and Israel because of the never-ending folly of men with guns, 2) Those who suffered the Holocaust have passed their psychological trauma from one generation to the next and the next, 3) Traumatized though they may be, some people show amazing emotional resilience, 4) Beauty may save the soul, but only so far.


I’m content if readers understand these things better after reading Felice’s Worlds.


8)  Were you able to keep your original title?  What was it, if not?


The title of Felice’s Worlds was fluid, a shifting about work in progress as long as the book was a work in progress.  It didn’t crystallize until the book was finished, with help from the publisher.


9)  Is there a song or music in general that might best represent your book as a theme song. 


Yes, Eastern European klezmer music captures the book.  The publisher, BooksBnimble, created a video trailer for Felice’s Worlds, with an excerpt of Felice speaking about her past when she was in her seventies, and with pictures of her village on the Polish-Russian border, and her home and art in America.  The trailer’s klezmer music has snippets of jazz from the 1930s, gypsy rhythms, and Jewish folk melodies. You can access the trailer by going to YouTube, or via the publisher’s website, or via the Amazon listing for the book, I believe.


10)  If you could write your book again, what would you change?


Felice’s Worlds went through three or four drafts, with input from friends and two editors.  For the final draft I told myself this time I want to get it right, leave nothing I’m dissatisfied with on the page, say what I want to say, and say it cleanly once a for all.  I’m satisfied with what’s there.


Thank you for spending time with us, Dr. Massie.


You can find “Felice’s Worlds” here:



Find out more about Henry Massie herehttp://www.booksbnimble.com