Books & Recordings by Susan Strauss

Cover image of book by Susan Strauss, 'Tree With Golden Apples,' illustrated by Gretta Johnson

New book available September 2022 from Fulcrum Publishing:

Tree With Golden Apples: Botanical & Agricultural Wisdom in World Myth

In an unpredictable world, take courage and inspiration from powerful indigenous stories that unfold the profound wisdom found all around us in Nature. Tree With Golden Apples is a rare collection of twelve myths, anecdotes and folk tales that reveal the botanical wisdom of the ancients alongside the perspective of modern scientific discoveries. For possibly the first time, these parallel views of the extraordinary gifts of botanical life are presented side-by-side with the musical, poetic speech of the storyteller and the precise language of the scientist, expanding our awe for life on earth.

Readers, whatever their age or background, can expect to be astounded, amused and deeply touched in turn by the insights and knowledge that emerge in these tales.

Each of these twelve traditional stories from world cultures presents archetypal images of the miraculous gifts of botanical life on earth. Each story is followed by:

  • Scientific and botanical elements: Dr. Ian Edwards, Director of Public Engagement at the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh (retired), describes the scientific concept alluded to in the story. An ecologist and research associate of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edwards worked on conservation and environmental education projects for four decades and on five continents. His passion for storytelling and ethnobotany grew while living with isolated tribal communities in the heart of the South-East Asian rainforest.  He is the author of numerous scientific papers, popular articles and books, including Natural History of Seram, Woodlanders and Scottish Tree Tales. He lives in a wild forest garden near Edinburgh with his wife and youngest son.
  • Storytelling craft: Author Susan Strauss shares an exploration of the storytelling skills and attributes, as well as the story’s historic or ethnic background to enhance the reader’s retelling of the stories.

“The tree—the largest expression of the plant kingdom—is composed of about 95% carbon. Trees pull that carbon from air—from the seemingly invisible atmosphere. By breathing in carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen, the tree builds its body of carbon. This body of the tree is the same substance out of which humans have crafted world traveling ships, heated homes, and constructed the progress of civilizations. Trees have performed the magnificent feat of translating the invisible into the visible; transforming the heavenly into the earthly—while at the same time, given us an atmosphere to breathe.
– excerpt from the preface, Tree With Golden Apples

Cover of The Passionate Fact, by Susan Strauss

The Passionate Fact:
Storytelling in Natural History and Cultural Interpretation

The Passionate Fact looks at how storytelling is distinct from information giving.  How it demands interaction with audience, introspection and self-reflection for the presenter to be effective.  How it translates content or information into image and weaves together beauty and truth.  This book asks us to understand how storytelling does its work and develop in our presenting “a story way of giving information.”  

Some have dubbed the present and coming future ‘the information age’…in the midst of this proudly heralded most modern age, we must ask, what becomes of all this information?  What information deserves our attention?  How does this information affect our ability to live up to our higher potential for interaction in a respectful and socially responsible way with human beings and other life-forms…?
excerpt from The Passionate Fact

Chapter titles:

  • Story Speaking versus Information Giving
  • A World Layered in Story:  Types of Story and How They Work
  • Literary, Visual and Musical:  Storytelling—A Three-Part Art
  • Moralizing and the Message, or 
  • The Moral to the Story and Other False Ideas about What a Story Does
  • Science as Archetype:  Myth as Truth
  • Telling Scientific Fact as Story
  • Learning from Our Continental Elders:  Native American Myths
  • Researching a Story with Head and Heart
  • Entering the Oral Tradition:  Practical Practice Techniques
  • Voice, Gesture and Movement
Cover image of book by Susan Strauss, Coyote Stories for children

Coyote Stories:
Tales from Native America

The wily, trickster, sacred fool/hero makes his tracks, tracks, tracks through four Native American myths, plus “Railroad Coyote,” a humorous true-life story from a Southern Oregon rancher. Myths include:  Coyote Gets His Name (Okanogan), At-At-Hila, Monster Woman At the Coast (Wasco), Coyote and Spider (Karok) and Coyote and the Grass People (Assiniboin). 

  • Science-myth connection: Author Susan Strauss includes a general introduction relating the mythic Coyote to the biological coyote and the history of failed efforts to eradicate the coyote in the west. 
  • Native perspective: An essay, “Are These Stories True?,” relates a Native perspective on mythology.

Cover image of book by Susan Strauss, Wolf Stories, illustration of a green wolf amidst purple trees by Gary Lund

Wolf Stories:
Myths and True Life Tales from Around the World

A collection of ancient myths that reveal the wolf as hero, not villain.  These stories pre-date Little Red Riding Hood.  In ancient cultures from Japan to Germany, the wolf was admired as a loyal parent and spouse, predator who keeps the cycles of life in motion, the spirit guide who knows about truth beyond facade and the guardian of mystery.  These archetypes are supported by anecdotes from wolf biologists. 

Myths include: 

  • The Wolf’s Eyelashes (Japan)
  • She Who Lived With Wolves (Lakota)
  • Skoll & Hati (Norse)
  • Spako, The Wolf Goddess (Persia)
  • Ivan, The Wolf & The Firebird (Russia)
  • Skidi Pawnee Creation

Biological anecdotes: Contributions from Dr. David Mech, Bob Ream and Jack Laufer. 

Historical and cultural perspectives: A general introduction traces the history of human perception of the wolf and each story is introduced with a historic or cultural vignette.

Recordings

Currently available on CD through mail order.

Cover image of audio Susan Strauss' recording, 'Tracks, Tracks, Tracks' with an illustration of a Coyote

Tracks, Tracks, Tracks: Native American Coyote Tales

Stories:  Fox Sings the World (D’Angelo), Coyote Gets His Name (Okanagon), Coyote Meets Numozoho (Paiute), Coyote & Spider (Karok), The Swallowing Monster (Nez Perce), At’At’Hila at the Coast (Wasco).

Dreams of Animals CD cover with hand-drawn coyote whose tail turns into a mountain range disappearing into the horizon

Dreams of Animals: Myths and Personal Stories of Animals

Creation of Day & Night (Nez Perce), Pond’s Story (original), Coyote Goes to the Sky (Karok), A Bee in Suburbia (original), Five Sparrows (Japan), Coyote Brings Salmon to Columbia River (Wishram), Snow White & Rose Red (German), Br’er Rabbit & Br’er Snake (African American), God, Too, Lives in Northern New Jersey (original).

Birds of Fortune CD cover

Birds of Fortune: Blessing Stories from the Book of Nature

Flute, drum, marimba and violin accompaniment by Jo Booser.  

Stories include:  Yggdrasil, The World Tree (Nordic), Coyote & Farting Boy (Nez Perce), Language of the Birds (Hassidic Jewish), When Woman Became the Sea (Costa Rican), Loon Mother (Athapascan), Heyoke Brings Water to Sundance (original), A Refugee from Suburbia (original), Birds of Fortune (Japan).  

cover of Coyote Gets a Cadillac CD, with a brightly illustrated coyote driving a yellow convertible

Coyote Gets A Cadillac & Other Wild Tales

Traditional and original tales with an environmental ethic theme, including:  A Cricket in Washington, D.C. (Jerry), Coyote and the Grass People (Assiniboin), Crow’s Story (original), Coyote Goes to the Sky (Karok), God Too, Lives in Northern New Jersey (original), Coyote Gets A Cadillac (original), Little Red Riding Boots Moves to L.A.(original), Skidi Pawnee Creation of North American & the Wolf.