A message from Diane's daughter, Rachel:
"It 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." —Rachel Zucker
In honor of Diane, to hear her voice and her insights, listen to our interview in May 2013 on Voices of the Sacred Feminine:
Diane Wolkstein, 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.
Diane 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. In 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.
Diane’s 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. She is 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 City.
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.
Here her in her own words here from our interview in May of last year -
Please keep Diane and her family in your prayers. She contributed much to women's studies, feminist studies, and taught much to those exploring the Goddess Inanna. Her work in the world seeded many minds across the globe to bring non-traditional myths to the masses. She was truly a contemporary bard.
May Goddess Embrace Diane in her Golden Wings,