Book cover for How to Be a Refugee

How to Be a Refugee



06 January 2022
320 pages
Imprint: Picador


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.
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 . . . May's large cast of characters shows with dizzying variety the human ability to live in a state of constant flight from horror, long after the shooting stops. His broad and intriguing book suggests that these survivors were exiled not just from time and place, but also from themselves.
Gripping family memoir . . . a delight.
Simon May was raised in Britain as a Catholic, but was forbidden to identify as British. Neither was he allowed to identify as Jewish or German, despite his family’s origins. After one of his aunts reveals the truth about his father’s death, May embarks on a quest to uncover his family’s true history: a story of steadfast denial of their Jewish heritage through extraordinary means in order to escape the fate of Jewish people living in Hitler’s Germany.