The following is a guest post from guest blogger Rebekah Zabarsky.
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As a frequent library visitor, I often commit an offense that I believe is requited through the hefty fines I pay for not returning my books on time. The crime comes in blue, black, red, or purple, depending on the color pen in my bag:
If a passage in a book whispers in my ear and guides me through my thoughts, I underline the words.
Yes, I write in library books. Often, the selected passages are “lit-ureka!” excerpts that so accurately describe what I am feeling, I must mark them for others to share in the excitement. I’m not sure the librarians approve of my thoughtfulness.
Blue lines now pervade the chapters of Valerie Steiker’s novel/memoir, The Leopard Hat: A Daughter’s Story. I found myself guided through her accounts of traveling, her relationship with her mother, and her own explorations of self.
The writing is a journey in itself; stories of her mother’s time spent hidden as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Antwerp overlap the experience Valerie had when she traveled back to Antwerp for a wedding of one of her mother’s relatives.
The intermix of Steiker’s own biography with her mother’s showcases how travel, people, and experiences create meaning in our lives. Steiker took me on a journey through New York City, Paris, Mexico City, India, and Antwerp, just to name a few cities.
The story benefits from the disregard of chronology. Rather, Steiker, an editor by trade, carefully weaves a memoir and a journal into a fascinating account of womanhood.
While not a travel book per se, The Leopard Hat prepared me for an upcoming trip to France. Emotionally, I connected with the feelings of anxiety and desperation when faced with the decision of what to do next.
One passage deserved a blue underline because of the relevance I felt its words have in my life and those of my peers.
The problem with thinking you can do anything is that a lot of times you end up doing nothing. You can’t go anywhere in life if you don’t choose a direction, but taking that first step feels too limiting. It requires a mental letting go of all those other intangible possibilities. So as long as you don’t make a decision, you stay free– a freedom that, because it prevents you from moving on, quickly becomes its own kind of prison. (Steiker 227)
Don’t the things that limit our adventures act as cages, imprisoning us to the status quo? Do our jobs, (or lack thereof), our financial responsibilities, our relationships stop us from moving forward? Or is the feeling of “intangible possibilities” too intimidating that we limit our own selves?
Steiker’s insight to these questions allowed me to focus on my own doubts. At times nostalgic, yet always compelling, I highly recommend The Leopard Hat to any female adventurer searching for underline-worthy inspiration.
(Steiker, Valerie. The leopard hat a daughter’s story. Vintage Books, 2002. Print.)