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How to Be a Refugee: One Family's Story of Exile and Belonging

by Simon May

$19.99

How to Be a Refugee: One Family's Story of Exile and Belonging

by Simon May

$19.99

'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.

Book Information

  • ISBN: 9781529042863
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pub Date: 14/06/2022
  • Category: Humanities / The Holocaust
    Biography & True Stories / Memoirs
    Humanities / Second World War
    Biography & True Stories / True stories of heroism, endurance & survival
  • Imprint: Picador
  • Pages: 384
  • Price: $19.99

'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.

Author Information

Simon May was born in London, the son of a violinist and a brush manufacturer. Visiting professor of philosophy at King’s College London, his books include Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion; Love: A History; Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on ‘Morality’; The Power of Cute; How to Be a Refugee and Thinking Aloud, a collection of his own aphorisms. His work has been translated into ten languages and regularly features in major newspapers worldwide. For many years he has intended to move ‘back’ to Berlin, but has yet to do so.

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