Diane Wolkstein, storyteller and folklorist passed away on January 31st while on a trip to Taiwan.
If you have never heard of Diane, then check out this video and learn a little about New York's official storyteller: http://vimeo.com/58761522
A message from Diane's daughter, Rachel:
is with profound sadness that I tell you that my mother, Diane
Wolkstein, passed away very early this morning in Taiwan. She had had
emergency heart surgery but the procedure was not sufficient to allow
her heart to work on its own. She was not conscious and she was not
alone. She had several of her close friends from Taiwan there with her
and at the very end she had a rabbi say kaddish and Buddhist prayers
were said as well.
Her death is a terrible shock. Her life
overflowed with joy, intensity, friendship, love and spirit. Her love
for each of us and the stories she told live inside of us forever."
world-renowned storyteller, folklorist, mythologist and author of many
books for children and adults, died following emergency heart surgery on
January 31 while on a trip to Taiwan working on her most recent
project, the Chinese epic story of Monkey King or Journey to the West.
was the author of 23 books of folklore and performed to sold-out crowds
throughout the world. What set Diane apart as a storyteller are her
performing gifts as well as the depth of knowledge and research she
devoted to the stories she told. Diane's collection, The Magic Orange
Tree, was the result of numerous visits to Haiti during which Diane
recorded stories told on porches and in late-night gatherings.
Australia, Diane met Aboriginal storytellers who granted her special
permission to tell their stories. Wolkstein spent years working with
Samuel Noah Kramer, one of the world's pre-eminent archeologists, to
create the definitive telling of the great Sumerian epic, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
which she performed at the United Nations and the British Museum.
Because of Diane's work, Inanna has become an influential text in
feminist studies and studies of ancient history.
belief in story and its potential to transform people's lives propelled
her to the forefront of the modern storytelling movement as early as
1967, when she joined the New York City's Department of Parks &
Recreation and started a year-round storytelling program for the city's
parks and schools. Diane initiated America's first graduate storytelling
program at Bank Street College of Education and was a regular visiting
teacher of mythology at New York University for 18 years.
a founding member of both America's National Storytelling Conference
and the Storytelling Center of New York City, and has held hundreds of
workshops on the art of storytelling throughout her long career. For
thirteen years Diane's radio show, Stories from Many Lands, was
broadcast on WNYC-AM/FM bi-weekly, and in 2007 New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg named June 22nd of that year "Diane Wolkstein Day" in
honor of Diane's 40 years of storytelling for the people of New York
New York City's children gathered at the foot of the statue
of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park to hear Diane tell stories
every Saturday for more than forty summers. The culminating event of
the storytelling season was her telling of Elsie Piddock Skips in her
Sleep and the skip rope competition that followed.
is survived by her daughter, Rachel Zucker, her son-in-law Josh Goren,
her three grandsons Moses Goren, Abram Goren and Judah Goren, her mother
Ruth Wolkstein, her brothers Martin Wolkstein and Gary Wolkstein, her
sister-in-law Elizabeth Borsodi, nieces and nephews and a grandniece.
She also leaves behind many dearly loved friends in New York and around
In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation in Diane's name to Partners in Health, or Tzu Chi Foundation.
public memorial service will be held this Sunday, February 3rd, at 3PM
at the New York Insight Meditation Center, located at 28 West 27th
Street, 10th floor (b/w 5th and 6th Avenue). (A second memorial,
celebrating Diane's life is being planned for the summer/fall)
Much of this is taken from Robin Bady.