The Leopard Hat: A Daughter's Story

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Pantheon Books, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 326 pages
This indelible story of a mother and daughter opens with a magical childhood on the Upper East Side of New York. At its heart is Valerie Steiker's mother, Gisele, a Belgian Jew who, as a child, was hidden from the Nazis during World War II. As an adult, Gisele developed a large appetite for joy, beauty, and spontaneity, tempered only by her old-world superstitions and protectiveness. The apartment on Madison Avenue where she and her husband raised two daughters overflowed with books, musical instruments, velvet-lined boxes, Gisele's flamboyant wardrobe, and, above all, love and warmth.
When Gisele died during her daughter's junior year at Harvard, Steiker's challenge was to preserve the enveloping glow of her mother's presence even as she stepped outside of it. With grace and humor, she explores her girlhood and adolescence and the crucial growing pains of her twenties. She falls in love; she moves to Paris for a year on her own; she returns home to find her mother still absent. Layering episodes in her own life with those of her mother's, she often sees Gisele illuminated in her own experiences.
"The Leopard Hat" is an intimate account of loss and reconciliation, and of the unshakable bond between a mother and daughter; it is, finally, the celebration of a young woman's vivacious emergence into adulthood.

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User Review  - bnbookgirl - LibraryThing

I enjoyed this memoir. She has such great descriptions of not only the relationship, but if the era and place as well. When she was in France, India, or any other place, you could really visualize it ... Read full review

THE LEOPARD HAT: A Daughter's Story

User Review  - Kirkus

A luminously written debut describes a mother-daughter relationship filled with affection and refreshingly free of the usual resentments.Steiker's memoir about a happy family blessed with love and ... Read full review


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About the author (2002)

Valerie Steiker’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, ARTnews, The Forward, and The New York Times Book Review. Before becoming an editor at Artforum and, more recently, at Vogue, she was on the editorial staff of The New Yorker. She lives in Manhattan.

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