Gioia Timpanelli

AcclaimedNovelist & Storyteller
American Book Award

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening with Gioia Timpanelli


“Gioia Timpanelli’s stories…are dreams…and these dreams, in the skill of their telling, lead us back to ourselves.”  —The Boston Globe

“No one in the world can tell a story better than Gioia Timpanelli.” —Frank McCourt

“She has the capacity to draw out the very depths of the power of myths and narrative and to take literature back to its sources before your eyes (and ears).” —Gary Snyder

“Timpanelli’s tales are little treasures. We need them in these times for their psychological clarity about feminine experience and masculine identity.” —Nor Hall

“I love almost all storytelling, but this woman, Gioia Timpanelli, is the greatest I have heard in the art.” —Robert Bly

Gioia Timpanelli is the author of the novels What Makes a Child Lucky (2013) and Sometimes the Soul: Two Novellas of Sicily (1998), winner of the 1999 American Book Award. She is one of the founders of the worldwide revival of storytelling. Often called the “Dean of American Storytelling,” she is today considered one of the world’s foremost storytellers—widely respected as both a master and scholar of the ageless art. She won two Emmy Awards for her series of programs on storytelling, Stories from My House, on educational television, where she created, wrote, produced, and appeared in eight series of literature programs shown on PBS stations all over the United States. She has also received the prestigious Women’s National Book Association Award for bringing the oral tradition to the American public and recently the Maharishi Award for “promoting world harmony wherever she goes by enlivening within the listener that field of pure consciousness that is the source of all stories.”

She has performed her improvisational telling of ancient and modern stories and given talks in collaboration with respected masters of other art forms—especially in the world of poetry and letters (Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly, James Hillman, Nor Hall, and Gary Snyder) throughout the United States, including The New School, The Art Institute of Chicago, The University of California, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The American Museum of Natural History, Il Santuario De Guadalupe in Santa Fe, John Hancock Hall in Boston, the Laurel Theatre in Knoxville, Riverwalk in New Orleans, the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Spoleto Festival, The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and many other venues. She has also performed in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece. Her radio series “Told and Retold” is on both PRX and NPR’s ContentDepot.

Gioia Timpanelli’s website


Gioia Timpanelli is the author of the novels What Makes a Child Lucky (2013) and Sometimes the Soul: Two Novellas of Sicily (1998), winner of the 1999 American Book Award. Considered one of the founders of the worldwide revival of storytelling, she is often called the “Dean of American Storytelling,” she is today considered one of the world’s foremost storytellers. She won two Emmy Awards for her series of programs on storytelling, Stories from My House, on educational television, where she created, wrote, produced, and appeared in eight series of literature programs shown on PBS stations all over the United States. She has also received the prestigious Women’s National Book Association Award for bringing the oral tradition to the American public and recently the Maharishi Award for “promoting world harmony wherever she goes by enlivening within the listener that field of pure consciousness that is the source of all stories.”


WHAT MAKES A CHILD LUCKY (Novel, 2008)
A luminous story of danger and survival. In a timeless moment in rural Sicily, a boy experiences the death of his best friend and is kidnapped by the murderers. No child should have to know evil so intimately; and yet once he does, what will save him? His salvation lies in the cycles of the seasons; the sturdy earth and its gifts of lentils and wild asparagus in a time of starvation; the animal sense that enables one to anticipate the whims and impulses of others; and, most important, familiarity with the Ancient Grandmother, who knows the entire play of good and evil. We know her by the real grandmother, who everyday saves children all over the world. If he can trust her—the gang’s cook, a fierce woman of great practical wisdom and humanity—he will escape the grip of perpetual violence. Or so we learn from the beguiling old couple who narrate this story. Uniting the most ancient forms of storytelling with a modern sensibility, Gioia Timpanelli’s work is a national treasure—a joy to read, clear and resonant and satisfying. Hauntingly beautiful fiction about two women, solitude, art, and transformation.

SOMETIMES THE SOUL (Novellas, 1998)
For years, Gioia Timpanelli has held audiences rapt with her retellings of ancient tales, often appearing with Robert Bly, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, and Gary Snyder. Here, in fiction full of warmth and resonances—characters we can’t help but recognize, prose and imagery that play on the strings of the soul—Timpanelli draws on her deep knowledge of these old stories and their wisdoms to create a new and refreshing kind of storytelling, with hints of both Italo Calvino and Angela Carter. In “A Knot of Tears,” a woman’s locked-up life is transformed by a parrot who tells tales; her story becomes a subtle and surprising meditation on the necessity of being true to oneself and others. In “Rusina, Not Quite in Love,” a strange and lovely retelling of the story of the Beauty and the Beast, a young woman escapes family and society—especially the grasp of her superficial and beastly sisters—to find consolation and beauty in nature and its muse. In each case, women of very different backgrounds—one aristocratic, one impoverished—find solitary spaces from which they can emerge as artists and shapers of their own destinies. With a sense of character unusual in contemporary fiction (not mere personality, but moral character) and a gentle, lyric touch, Timpanelli blends the seeming simplicity of folktale with a richly textured understanding of human nature. With great integrity and affection for language, her work teaches about love and solitude, honesty and art.


WHAT MAKES A CHILD LUCKY (excerpt)

“Hunger,” she said,” is very personal. At first, it even tricks you into feeling guilty over your own misery, guilty for your human lack of grace. It holds your wrists tightly in its bony fingers; it breathes its foul breath into your gaping mouth as you sleep.”

“But wait,” we said, “doesn’t this happen in a story Ovid tells about Erysicthon’s hunger? What does it have to do with now? It’s an old story.”

“True, true,” she said, “but why do you insist on being literal to time? You see time might change the details but the story of greed and retribution, or as you moderns insist of “cause and effect,” is essentially the same. Erysicthon starves in his soul as well as his stomach. Why do you believe hunger could never happen to you, not where you are, and not now among your people? You think you are too well off for hunger to find you? Ah, my friend, we thought exactly the same.”

(Sicily at the end of the nineteenth century or anyplace at anytime)