How to Be a Refugee

by Simon May


How to Be a Refugee | 9781529042863 | Simon May

In stock


Format:Paperback / softback

Published:06/01/2022 by Pan Macmillan


‘A lyrical, fascinating, important book. More than just a family story, it is an essay on belonging, denying, pretending, self-deception and, at least for the main characters, survival.’ Literary Review

‘Simon May’s remarkable How to Be a Refugee is a memoir of family secrets with a ruminative twist, one that’s more interested in what we keep from ourselves than the ones we conceal from others.’ Irish Times

How to Be a Refugee is Simon May’s gripping account of how his mother and his two aunts – who, like their parents, had converted to Christianity – grappled with their Jewish heritage in Hitler’s Germany.

To escape this lethal inheritance, the sisters denied their Jewish origin to the point of erasing almost all consciousness of it. Their very different trajectories included fleeing to London, securing ‘Aryan’ status with high-ranking help from inside Hitler’s regime, and marrying into the German aristocracy. Even after Hitler had been defeated, they were still in flight from that heritage. May, too, was raised a Catholic and forbidden to identify as Jewish or German or British.

May’s haunting quest to uncover the lives of the three sisters, as well as the secrets of a grandfather he never knew, forcefully illuminates the extraordinary lengths to which people will go to survive.

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