The Leopard Hat by Valerie Steiker
A Daughter's Story

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In this tender loving memoir, Valerie Steiker evokes a magical childhood on the Upper East side of New York with a woman whose own losses led her to delight in family, beauty and life itself.

Valerie Steiker’s Belgian Jewish mother, Gisèle—who, as a child in Antwerp, was hidden from the Nazis—wasn’t a typical American mom. She spoke with throaty Belgian Rs and wore only high heels. Before her marriage, she had studied acting with Lee Strasburg and been a model in Mexico. With her vitality and elegance, she created a joyous childhood for Valerie and her sister. Together they tangoed through their vibrant Manhattan apartment, took in great art, and shared “women’s hidden secrets.” Gisèle’s premature death left Valerie (at the time a junior at Harvard) unmoored, but in grieving and in finding her own path to womanhood, Valerie would ultimately grow to understand Gisèle more profoundly than she ever had as a child. Beautifully evocative of a glamourous and now-vanished world, The Leopard Hat is an extraordinary memoir about the warm and indelible bond between mother and daughter.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Valerie Steiker

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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.
Published December 18, 2007 by Vintage. 338 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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The author also relates her own reactions to her mother’s influence, juxtaposing events in Gisèle’s life with details of Valerie’s childhood, the year in adolescence when she separated herself from her mother (“Suddenly everything she did drove me up the wall”), and her first love.

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Publishers Weekly

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"You'll get to know your mother more as you go through the different phases of your life," a wise friend consoled Steiker, a former New Yorker writer and ArtForum editor, who'd lost her mother before they could connect "woman to woman."

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Book Reporter

Many of the book's best chapters unfold around the difficulty Steiker encounters in struggling to live without her mother's constant love and support.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Leopard Hat: A Daughter's...

The Moderate Voice

Paraphrasing (because I returned the book to the library) the note , addressed to Valerie’s mother, tells her that Valerie wants her to always have a note waiting for her, when she comes home from school, in a place Valerie will see it — a “note of love,” I think was the way she put it.

Aug 27 2009 | Read Full Review of The Leopard Hat: A Daughter's...

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