Diane Wolkstein

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Diane Wolkstein (November 11, 1942 – January 31, 2013) was a folklorist and author of children's books. She was New York City's official storyteller from 1967 to 1971.[1]


As New York's official storyteller beginning in 1967,[2] Wolkstein visited two of the city's parks each weekday, staging hundreds of one-woman storytelling events. After successfully talking her way into the position, she said she realized "there was no margin for error" in a 1992 interview. "I mean, it was a park. [The children would] just go somewhere else if they didn't like it."[1]

She also had a radio show on WNYC, Stories From Many Lands, from 1968 until 1980, and she helped to create the Storytelling Center of New York City.[1]

Wolkstein wrote two dozen books, primarily collections of folk tales and legends she gathered during research trips. She made many visits to China, Haiti and Africa.[1] She collaborated with the Assyriologist Samuel Noah Kramer to translate Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, the story of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of fertility, love and war.[3]

The Library of Congress houses an archive of Wolkstein's photographs, performance events and productions, interviews and other materials.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

Wolkstein was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. Her father, Henry, was an accountant and her mother, Ruth, was a librarian. She received a bachelor's degree from Smith College and a master's degree in education from Bank Street College of Education.[1] While living in Paris, she studied mime under Étienne Decroux.[1] She had a daughter, Rachel Zucker.[2]

Wolkstein was in Taiwan to research a book of Chinese folk stories when she underwent emergency surgery for a heart condition. She died in the city of Kaohsiung at the age of 70.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Vitello, Paul (3 February 2013). "Diane Wolkstein, Author Who Led a Storytelling Revival, Dies at 70". The New York Times. p. B3. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Diane Wolkstein collection". Library of Congress. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Lanset, Andy (23 March 2020). "Diane Wolkstein and Stories From Many Lands". NYPR Archives & Preservation. Retrieved 20 August 2020.

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