Showing posts with label Diane Wolkstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diane Wolkstein. Show all posts

2.03.2013

Diane Wolkenstein (d. Jan. 30, 2013)


When I reviewed Esther's Story last year, I had no idea that its author, Diane Wolkstein, was such an accomplished storyteller. By friending her on Facebook, I was to receive all of her updates as she traveled all across the world performing a piece called The Monkey King.

I was saddened to find the notice of her sudden death the other day.

*

From her website:
Diane Wolkstein is more than a storyteller. She is an interpreter of life. Since 1967, Diane has occupied a unique place in the world of storytelling and literature. Through her performances, teaching, books, and recordings, she has played a major role in the renewed interest in mythology and the modern storytelling movement. Whether recounting epics, trickster stories or fairy tales, Diane enters and speaks from the heart of each story she tells.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg named June 22nd, 2007 “Diane Wolkstein Day” in honor of her 40 years of service to New York City where she initiated America’s first graduate storytelling program, pioneered a year–round storytelling program for parks and schools, hosted her own radio show on WNYC–AM/FM Radio, and taught mythology at New York University, the New School, and Sarah Lawrence. Diane has performed at the United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian Institute, the American Museum of Natural History, and has been a frequent guest on PBS, NPR, and the BBC.

*
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

*

Obituary by Karen Tate:

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.

"Taking notes."
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.

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,
Karen Tate


7.19.2011

Esther's Story (1996)

Retold by Diane Wolkstein

Illustrated by Juan Wijngaard

Gouache on paper.

Text set in 14.5 Gody Old Style BT

Morrow Junior Books

This is a very full retelling of the story of Esther, which I've been piecing together from various picture book versions in my previous entries. This one is by far the most beautiful and expansive version I've read yet.
.
"Esther's Story is woven together from the biblical Book of Esther, oral legends, and my own musings," writes Wolkstein. "Other legends were told to me by my own rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach."
.
Right away, I could tell I was going to dig this one. I can tell she has her priorities straight. Not a mere retelling, but a conflation of different sources and personal acquaintances.
.
Esther is eleven years old when the story opens, and named Hadassah. She is writing in a diary given to her by her Uncle Mordecai, on a night wherein he has left her by herself and attended the King's banquet. The whole of the book is written in the first person, with Esther's voice.
.
When Mordecai returns home, he comes bearing news:
.
"Tonight Queen Vashti, the queen of all Persia, refused to go to the king when he called for her, so she has been banished. Tomorrow a search for a new queen begins throughout the one hundred and twenty-seven lands of Persia."
.
We follow Esther through her adolescence, growing into a young woman. Wijngaard has done wonderful work showing not just the key players, but the entire world in which they live: fully realized with innumerable details. I love the lattice work and her triple braids as she stands looking out at the evening sky.
.
In Persia, Esther is the goddess Ishtar, who is the goddess of love and war. She is also the first planet to appear every night in the sky. I often watch for her in the evening. I think it is very brave of her to appear all alone when it is dark.
.
What?! Polytheism in a Bible story?!
.
I dig it.
.
When Esther is a bit older (thank God) she is selected to live in the palace with other beautiful, young women from the kingdom. Presumably, this is part of the bride-choosing process. It is only when she happens across the king in the hall and they share a laugh that he asks her to marry him.
.
This was the only version I've read in which some genuine emotion went between them, and we feel that they truly are in love, that it is because of her good-natured, child-like quality that she is able to warm the sad king's heart. Not just because, you know, she's hot. In fact, I think it works greatly toward this story's overall message that Esther is not necessarily the most beautiful.
.
There are many other details which I loved. Esther does not merely enter the King's throne  room, but she "..walked through the first, the second, and the third gates. At the fourth gate, my legs began to tremble. I walked more slowly. I passed through the fifth and sixth gates. As I came to the seventh gate, I wondered if these were my last moments to live. Then I heard the sound of the shofar, and pushed the last gate open." In a medium in which minimalism seems to be the name of the game, I love lengthy descriptions like this all the more.
.
The story will pass from one to another. I think that is how it was meant to be. Once it was my story. Now it belongs to each of us.
.
Indeed.
.
For more stories about Queen Esther, click here!
.
For more stories from the Old Testament, click here!
.
For Jewish Folktales, click here!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...