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“I Can’t Abandon My Name”: The Sacklers and Me

Had Neil Gordon and I crossed paths? Had he perhaps known my father, also a writer? Was there a connection between us? In 2003 it wasn’t so easy to get an author’s address. I had to do some research to find a snail mail address and write Neil Gordon a letter:

Dear Mr. Gordon:

As far as I know, we have never met…. I’m contacting you because you use my name for a character in your recently published novel The Company You Keep. Would you please let me know how and why you alighted on this name?

Neil Gordon swiftly emailed me back, saying that while it was surely odd for me to come across myself in his novel, it was astonishing for him to receive a letter from one of his own fictional characters!

He politely explained that he didn’t know me and that the way he’d come to the name Molly Sackler was quite random. Molly was a schoolfriend of his daughter’s, I believe. Sackler, too, was an arbitrary choice. The coincidence was entirely accidental, not freighted with mystery or meaning at all.

But the Sackler name is freighted with mystery and meaning. Especially for me.

Being a New Yorker, I was of course familiar with the Sackler Wing and the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A decade ago, taking my little girl there on a hot summer day, I led her through the cool halls, her sandals slapping the marble. She held her sketchbook to her chest and dutifully grinned as I snapped her photo next to the Sackler plaque.

I so wanted my adopted child to want to be a Sackler like me. I wanted it so much that I would even use the bullshit prestige of this sign to entice her. But I also wanted her to laugh with me at the Sacklers and scorn their brazen ploy for fame. She just wanted to draw and then go get ice cream in the park.

Now that name—my name—is prominent in lurid headlines like: “Who Profits From the Opioid Crisis? Meet the Secretive Sackler Family Making Billions From OxyContin” and “Is This America’s Most Hated Family?”

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