The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #159: A Killer Story

For this special Mother’s Day episode, poet and writer Rachel Zucker explores her complex relationship with her mom, Diane Wolkstein.

Diane and young Rachel

Photos by Peter Schaaf

Diane became the official storyteller for New York City in 1967, when she marched into the Parks Department and asked for a job. For all of the 1970s on WNYC, you could tune in on Saturday mornings to hear her tell stories on her radio show Stories From Many Lands. Diane became a major figure in the American storytelling revival, and was called “one of the greatest storytellers in the Western world” by Joseph Campbell.

The stories she told came from various traditions around the world, including Chinese, Persian, and Haitian. Think of Grimm’s Fairy tales, before they get polished up by Disney. Usually, at the end, everyone’s not okay. Kids get lost, traded for firewood, or eaten. Kids… can kill their parents. Remarkably, the story of Rachel and her mom Diane feels an awful lot like one of those fables.

Rachel and Diane on one of their many trips around the world.

Tune in as we hear Rachel wrestle with one of the toughest questions a daughter can ask: Did I kill my mom… with words?

Books by Rachel and Diane

The book we talk about in today’s show is MOTHERs by Rachel Zucker. She’s also the author of Museum of Accidents and the co-author of Home/Birth, which we featured on Episode 29 with her co-author Arielle Greenberg. Rachel also hosts the podcast Commonplace where she interviews poets and authors.

Diane Wolkstein is the author two dozen books, including The Magic Orange Tree and Inanna.