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The NPR Culture Desk shares our favorite stories of 2022

<strong>Clockwise from top left:</strong> Marlon Brando in the film The Godfather (1972); Emily Meggett, the author of <em>Gullah Geechee Home Cooking; </em>illustration from Kate Beaton's graphic memoir <em>Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands; </em>America Ferrera (clockwise from top left), Eva Longoria, Rosie Perez, Ivette Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Christy Haubegger.
Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo; Clay Williams/Courtesy of Abrams; Drawn & Quarterly; Mike Gallegos for NPR
Clockwise from top left: Marlon Brando in the film The Godfather (1972); Emily Meggett, the author of Gullah Geechee Home Cooking; illustration from Kate Beaton's graphic memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands; America Ferrera (clockwise from top left), Eva Longoria, Rosie Perez, Ivette Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Christy Haubegger.

In 2022, we traveled all over the country chronicling the transformation of regional theater, we reported a series on Latinos in Hollywood, we celebrated your family recipes, and we brought you hundreds of recommendations for the year's best books and movies. Now, as we head into 2023, we take a look back at our favorite stories of the year:

<strong>Hear the story: </strong><a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/06/16/1105451218/visiting-the-national-portrait-gallery-with-bob-woodward-50-years-after-watergat"><strong>Bob Woodward recounts the Watergate story in an art museum</strong></a> Jack Davis, <em>Watergate Breaks Wide Open.</em> Watercolor and ink on paperboard, 1973. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
/ Estate of Jack Davis
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Estate of Jack Davis
Hear the story: Bob Woodward recounts the Watergate story in an art museum Jack Davis, Watergate Breaks Wide Open. Watercolor and ink on paperboard, 1973. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Bob Woodward recounts the Watergate story in an art museum

"I loved doing every part of this story for the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. National Portrait Gallery exhibited political cartoons of the day. I invited Bob Woodward (he and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story in The Washington Post) to see it with me. He told marvelous stories and gossip of the day. When we finished, museum visitors who'd gathered to listen burst into applause." Susan Stamberg, special correspondent

<strong>Hear the story: <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/08/15/1116289080/for-this-89-year-old-gullah-geechee-chef-cooking-is-about-heart">For this 89-year-old Gullah Geechee chef, cooking is about heart</a> </strong><em>Gullah Geechee Home Cooking </em>by Emily Meggett.
/ Courtesy of Abrams
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Courtesy of Abrams
Hear the story: For this 89-year-old Gullah Geechee chef, cooking is about heart Gullah Geechee Home Cooking by Emily Meggett.

For this 89-year-old Gullah Geechee chef, cooking is about heart

"I was so excited to travel to South Carolina in May to do a whole suite of stories to share with our audience. The most memorable time I spent there was in the kitchen of the matriarch of Edisto Island, Ms. Emily Meggett, who published her first cookbook at age 89. As a Gullah Geechee woman, Ms. Emily has a remarkable family history and she is a wonderful cook – but more than that, her sweet, wise heart just shines through. I was incredibly moved by the grace and kindness of this lady who keeps her kitchen door open to feed whoever needs a meal. As she told me about her recipes, "A lot of times, we has a treasure in our head. And we will die and go to heaven, and take that treasury with us. And why can't we just share it with somebody else here?" After our story aired, many folks told me how much it meant to them to hear Ms. Emily's voice on our airwaves. I couldn't agree more." Anastasia Tsioulcas, correspondent

<strong>Hear the story:</strong> <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/03/11/1085688897/the-godfather-bridged-old-and-new-hollywood-to-save-american-moviegoing"><strong>'The Godfather' bridged old and new Hollywood to save American moviegoing</strong></a><strong> </strong>Marlon Brando in <em>The Godfather</em> (1972)
/ Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo
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Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo
Hear the story: 'The Godfather' bridged old and new Hollywood to save American moviegoing Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972)

'The Godfather' bridged old and new Hollywood to save American moviegoing

"With all those great lines – "leave the gun take the cannoli," "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" – and industry-altering controversies to explain, the story of the birth of the modern gangster epic was always going to be fun to construct. And when I realized that we are finally in an era when there's NPR tape of what happened 50 years ago (the network started broadcasting in 1971), it became an offer I couldn't refuse." Bob Mondello, film critic

<strong>Check out the series: <a href="https://www.npr.org/series/1121772250/latinos-in-hollywood">Latinos in Hollywood</a></strong> America Ferrera (clockwise from top left), Eva Longoria, Rosie Perez, Ivette Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Christy Haubegger are using their platforms to promote empowerment and representation.
/ Mike Gallegos for NPR
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Mike Gallegos for NPR
Check out the series: Latinos in Hollywood America Ferrera (clockwise from top left), Eva Longoria, Rosie Perez, Ivette Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Christy Haubegger are using their platforms to promote empowerment and representation.

The Latinos in Hollywood series

My passion project, a five-part "Latinos in Hollywood" series, took me to Dolores Del Río's Hollywood mansion, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Warner Bros. lot, Comic-Con in San Diego, the The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and more. I interviewed Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Rosie Perez, Xochitl Gomez, Xolo Maridueña, Edward James Olmos, Germaine Franco, Camilo Lara and many filmmakers. My stories also included Rita Moreno, John Leguizamo, Lalo Schifrin, Gustavo Santaolalla and Lin-Manuel Miranda. I highlighted Latino film legends, superheroes, composers and movie business powerhouses, and I got to tell the story of the 1932 Spanish language version of Dracula. I had so much fun and got such great responses, that I'm planning on doing a follow-up series soon, "Latinos on TV/streaming"! Mandalit del Barco, correspondent

<strong>Hear the story: <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2022/06/27/1098170250/street-symphony-plays-in-harmony-with-skid-rows-sacred-spaces">Street Symphony plays in harmony with Skid Row's 'sacred spaces'</a></strong> Vijay Gupta performing with some of the professional musicians in Street Symphony at the Midnight Mission on LA's Skid Row.
/ David Zimmerman
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David Zimmerman
Hear the story: Street Symphony plays in harmony with Skid Row's 'sacred spaces' Vijay Gupta performing with some of the professional musicians in Street Symphony at the Midnight Mission on LA's Skid Row.

Street Symphony plays in harmony with Skid Row's 'sacred spaces'

My favorite kind of arts story is one that's also about politics, science, public health — a story illustrating in a surprising way how the arts truly benefit and grapple with the world. And that's how I ended up at a 12-step recovery center on Skid Row, recording the youngest violinist ever to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Now Vijay Gupta runs an organization that brings music to unhoused and formerly incarcerated people in Los Angeles. NPR is one of the only places that still pays meaningful attention to classical music, and its mission is in some ways similar to Street Symphony's: to encourage active constructive participation, to exploit the potential of live interconnection and to advance the enjoyment of sound. Lofty goals aside, I sobbed through much of this story while working on it. Not because it was sad, but because I was so moved by the zeal, strength and generosity of the people in it.Neda Ulaby, correspondent

<strong>Hear the story: <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/03/28/1089115636/oscars-2022-will-smith-acceptance-speech-chris-rock">Should Will Smith have been allowed to collect an Oscar after he slapped Chris Rock?</a></strong> Will Smith holds his Oscar for best actor in a leading role for <em>King Richard</em> at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Hear the story: Should Will Smith have been allowed to collect an Oscar after he slapped Chris Rock? Will Smith holds his Oscar for best actor in a leading role for King Richard at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Should Will Smith have been allowed to collect an Oscar after he slapped Chris Rock?

"Before Will Smith's slap of Chris Rock at the Oscars launched 10,000 takes, I got a column up hours after the broadcast ended outlining all the anger and disappointment I felt seeing one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars betray himself, his fans and every viewer of the show. I hadn't planned to write anything beforehand; I was just live-tweeting the ceremony and was aghast at how the show's producers rolled over for Smith after he struck Rock. Chief culture editor Nick Charles, who had been watching my Twitter feed, called me after the show ended and just said: "You gotta write something, right?" Of course, he was right. So I used my tweets as a template for a column that combined things I remembered from reviewing Rock's turn hosting the Oscars in 2016 with my own thoughts and feedback from others online."Eric Deggans, TV critic

<strong>Hear the story: <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/02/08/1077673414/abraham-galloway-civil-war-black-history">Abraham Galloway is the Black figure from the Civil War you should know about</a></strong> Engraved portrait of Abraham Galloway from William Still's <em>The Underground Railroad</em>, published in 1872.
/ William Still's 'The Underground Railroad,' 1872
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William Still's 'The Underground Railroad,' 1872
Hear the story: Abraham Galloway is the Black figure from the Civil War you should know about Engraved portrait of Abraham Galloway from William Still's The Underground Railroad, published in 1872.

Abraham Galloway is the Black figure from the Civil War you should know about

I've wanted to tell the story of Abraham Galloway for almost 10 years, ever since the late Civil War historian Hari Jones told me, "Galloway is like the super-secret agent who travels from North Carolina to the Mississippi River Valley ... gets captured by the Confederates, escapes, takes on two, three men at one time. He's that kind of a guy, but he's almost unbelievable because he's been left out of the narrative for so long." It was thrilling to see our story resonate with the NPR audience, including attorney Ben Crump who Tweeted "POWERFUL! ... This groundbreaking figure has largely been left out of our history books!" Elizabeth Blair, senior producer/reporter

<strong>Hear the story: <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/10/07/1126934628/book-ducks-kate-beaton-hark-vagrant">Kate Beaton's new graphic memoir is about the dark type of job you take for money</a></strong> A page out of <em>Ducks</em> depicting machinery against a dark sky.
/ Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly
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Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly
Hear the story: Kate Beaton's new graphic memoir is about the dark type of job you take for money A page out of Ducks depicting machinery against a dark sky.

Kate Beaton's new graphic memoir is about the dark type of job you take for money

"After I finished reading Kate Beaton's book Ducks I knew I had to get Beaton in for an interview. In the book, she expertly weaves through the thorny politics of having to work a crappy job for a company that is causing tangible harm to people, without condescending to the people working those jobs. And in the interview, she was all the more sensitive and thoughtful to the issues. It was just one of those conversations that I'll keep in the special file folder tucked away in my brain that I'll be mulling on for years to come." Andrew Limbong, reporter

<strong>Hear the story:</strong> <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/04/05/1090819310/mystery-recordings-will-now-be-heard-for-the-first-time-in-about-100-years"><strong>Mystery recordings will now be heard for the first time in about 100 years</strong></a><strong> </strong>Early opera recordings on wax cylinders 1900–1904, recorded by Lionel Mapleson.
/ Robert Kato Lionel/New York Public Library
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Robert Kato Lionel/New York Public Library
Hear the story: Mystery recordings will now be heard for the first time in about 100 years Early opera recordings on wax cylinders 1900–1904, recorded by Lionel Mapleson.

Mystery recordings will now be heard for the first time in about 100 years

"I didn't know what to expect when I went to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to report this story. The library had speculated – had hoped – that perhaps on one of these unlabeled wax cylinders would be home recordings from the late 1800s. But they didn't know for sure. And what was actually on it was a surprise to everyone. Even more of a surprise was that the story – which I thought of as primarily an audio story – actually wound up being popular online. It was recounted in the Smithsonian magazine, Inside Edition's website and Atlas Obscura, and I heard from long-ago friends who now lived in Singapore, France, and all over the country that it had popped up in their newsfeeds. Most exciting, though, is that the library says it lead to one of their "most important recent acquisitions," after the grandson of Lionel Mapleson heard the story. Jennifer Vanasco, editor and reporter

<strong>Hear the story:</strong> <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/01/17/1073031858/artificial-intelligence-voice-cloning"><strong>Send in the clones: Using artificial intelligence to digitally replicate human voices</strong></a><strong> </strong>Reporter Chloe Veltman reacts to hearing her digital voice double, "Chloney," for the first time, with Speech Morphing chief linguist Mark Seligman.
/ Speech Morphing
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Speech Morphing
Hear the story: Send in the clones: Using artificial intelligence to digitally replicate human voices Reporter Chloe Veltman reacts to hearing her digital voice double, "Chloney," for the first time, with Speech Morphing chief linguist Mark Seligman.

Send in the clones: Using artificial intelligence to digitally replicate human voices

"Talking machines like Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa, or a bank's automated customer service line, are now sounding quite human. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, or AI, we've reached a point where it's sometimes difficult to distinguish synthetic voices from real ones. To report this story about our complex relationship with our ever-more-human-seeming personalities of our digital assistants, I decided to get my own voice cloned. It was an unexpectedly easy process, which both shocked and delighted me. The resulting story weaves this process of creating my digital voice double, "Chloney," in and out of details about the history and development of talking machines and the ethical implications of these advances." Chloe Veltman, correspondent

<strong>Hear the story:</strong> <a href="https://www.npr.org/2022/10/29/1132598119/grateful-deads-bob-weir-took-the-stage-with-the-national-symphony-orchestra"><strong>Grateful Dead's Bob Weir took the stage with the National Symphony Orchestra</strong></a> Bob Weir pictured on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2010.
Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Hear the story: Grateful Dead's Bob Weir took the stage with the National Symphony Orchestra Bob Weir pictured on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

Grateful Dead's Bob Weir took the stage with the National Symphony Orchestra

Tío Felix and I share a lot of common interests, but none quite like the Grateful Dead. It's a constant source of conversation and Slack banter between us, so when we heard Bob Weir would be in town to turn the Dead's discography into symphonic arrangements, we knew we had to ask him and composer Giancarlo Aquilanti about the project. Working on this piece transformed my view of music I already loved, and demonstrated that two completely different worlds (of the classical and jam band variety) could come together for something so strangely cohesive — which is why a rock n' roll legend like Weir has chosen the orchestra as the final frontier of his musical career. Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, Associate Producer

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