Luisa Weiss, born in Berlin to an American father and Italian mother, had a splintered childhood. She spent her earliest years in Berlin. When her parents divorced, she moved to the United States with her father, a math professor. Vacations were spent in Berlin, where her Italian mother remained, leavened with occasional visits to Italy, where Weiss spent time with relatives.
Despite loving family and friends, Weiss grew up profoundly unsure of herself and her place in the world. During graduate studies in Paris, she met Max, her future husband. Fearing commitment, she ended the relationship, moving to New York City, where she worked in publishing and quickly became caught up in the fast-track life of a young woman in the city.