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Collage of 2022 book, movie, podcast recommendation covers

What We Read, Watched, and Listened to in 2022

// January 25, 2023

Looking for New Content That Makes You Think? Check out These WFCO Staff Recommendations

A new year means new ways to fill up your free time for the next 12 months! If you’re looking for some bingeable content recommendations to read, watch, or listen to in 2023, check out these staff-selected books, podcasts, and movies that we all couldn’t get enough of last year.

Cover of How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong

“How We Show Up” by Mia Birdsong

I recently had a wonderful opportunity, thanks to the Kresge Foundation, to spend time with Mia Birdsong, founder of Next River, whose articulation of Collective Freedom touched upon something for which I have personal longing. Her lens on poverty is profound along with her understanding of “More than Enough.” (sound familiar?) We’ve forgotten the key element that helped us make progress in the first place: community. In this provocative, groundbreaking work, Birdsong shows that what separates us isn’t only the ever-present injustices built around race, class, gender, values, and beliefs, but also our denial of our interdependence and need for belonging. In response to the fear and discomfort we feel, we’ve built walls, and instead of leaning on each other, we find ourselves leaning on concrete. Through research, interviews, and stories of lived experience, her book “How We Show Up” returns us to our inherent connectedness where we find strength, safety, and support in vulnerability and generosity, in asking for help, and in being accountable. Showing up – literally and figuratively – points us toward the promise of our collective vitality and leads us to the liberated well-being we all want. See Mia’s TED Talk.

– Lauren Y. Casteel, president & CEO

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan book cover “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan

“The School for Good Mothers” gives off a vibe similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale” – a fictional warning about women losing their autonomy – in this case, mothers. The School is a bleak prison-like setting where the state mandates mothers who are trying to regain custody re-learn how to parent. Frida Liu, who made a serious one-time error regarding her daughter’s care, is the protagonist. She and other moms are assigned lifelike dolls who eerily represent their children. Together, the women, with their dolls, must go through a series of exercises to have their mothering skills evaluated (judged). If they pass, they will get custody back. Some of the scenarios are over the top, but the point is the threat of laws imposed on women to limit their agency, which we saw plenty of in 2022. It’s a surprising and engaging read with an ending that I’m still thinking about.


The Book of Unknown Americans book cover“The Book of Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henriquez

A fictional story about an apartment building in Delaware occupied by recent immigrants to the U.S. and the community they form. The main characters are Arturo and Alma, who have brought their daughter, Maribel, to America to attend a special school following a brain injury she sustained. They each must navigate unfamiliar norms and customs in school, workplaces, stores, public transportation, you name it. All of the systems are unfamiliar, unimaginably hard to comprehend, and make it almost impossible for them to advance. While we follow their story, we are introduced to the occupants of the other apartments in the building and how each of them arrived in America. As we watch the influx of immigrants at our own border, the book is a stark reminder, as our President & CEO Lauren Y. Casteel, says, that “migrants are not a crisis. They are humans in crisis.”


– Lisa Christie, vice president of communications

The Sea Beast Netflix movie cover/still

“The Sea Beast” on Netflix

My family and I recently enjoyed watching “The Sea Beast” together. The Netflix animated film is filled with adventure and visually stunning, plus it sparked some fabulous conversations with my daughters. The star of the film is Maisie, a young, Black girl who questions the (hi)stories told by those in power, changes her own worldview, and leads the transformation of her whole community. After the movie, I loved talking with my daughters about Maisie’s courageous leadership and the opportunities they have to question the status quo, stand up for what they believe is right, and inspire change in their community. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes agree – this is a “voyage well worth taking.”


– Louise Myrland, vice president of programs

Bread and Roses Legal Center logo over pink backgroundBread and Roses Legal Center on Instagram

I started following Bread and Roses Legal Center, a Colorado-based social justice legal center, when they launched in the summer of 2022. I was especially drawn to their work after reading one of their earliest Instagram posts, where they shared their core beliefs: “the people at the frontline of systemic violence are the ones who should drive change. We believe in centering the voices and perspectives of those most marginalized.” Throughout the fall, I looked forward to updates about Gertie, the camper turned mobile law office, and ways to support their work providing gender affirming legal services. Then on November 20th, their content shifted. Immediately in the aftermath of the shooting at Club Q, the Bread and Roses team mobilized a mutual aid response and began using all of their resources to organize and fundraise for Queers for Q. Their core beliefs were clear in every communication and every decision. Beyond fundraising and moving resources, Bread and Roses also used their platform to advocate for changes to traditional victim assistance systems and philanthropy as a whole. Their preliminary report on Queers for Q offers a transparent look into the results of their mutual aid work and gives step-by-step guidance to creating a coordinated, trauma-informed, and queer-centered response for institutions that wish to join Bread and Roses in centering the voices and perspectives of those on the frontline of systemic violence.

– Camisha Lashbrook, donor relations manager

No One is Coming to Save Us podcast logo and image of spilled baby bottle. “No One Is Coming to Save Us” a podcast by Gloria Riviera

“No One Is Coming to Save Us” started as an in-depth mini-series exploring the history of child care in America, and how to fix the broken system parents, children, and care providers are forced to navigate and that I discovered when I was on parental leave in 2021. This year, it launched as a weekly podcast where Gloria interviews experts, parents, and advocates about the difficulties of conceiving, having, and raising a child in America. My husband and I feel abundantly grateful to be on the wonderful and challenging journey of parenthood with our smart and smiley 18-month-old daughter, but child care has been by far the biggest challenge and stressor we’ve faced. The reality is that we pay the equivalent of a second mortgage payment every year in weekly child care expenses, and we know that this is the reality for so many families across the country who just want a safe and affordable place for their child to learn and play while they work. Gloria’s podcast is where I go for both commiseration and inspiration. From reframing “mom guilt” to thinking about child care as infrastructure and advocating for it accordingly, from the continued impact of COVID and the labor shortage, to incredible interviews with WFCO friends like Allyson Felix and Ai-jen Poo, it was a truly phenomenal year of reporting and conversation from Gloria and the “No One Is Coming to Save Us” team.

– Maggie Stoot, director of development

Disney's SheHulk show cover image“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” on Disney+

I just spent three months on parental leave (welcome baby Dalia and thank you WFCO). In those three months, I streamed a lot of tv series. When I look back on what I watched there are a few shows that stand out including Marvel’s “She-Hulk.” I believe the show will appeal to both fans of the Marvel Universe and those who don’t consider themselves fans. The combination of a superhero story with a legal procedural makes for a very fun binge. It was obvious to me that the show-runners are women as women’s experiences, especially with the workplace and dating, seemed to be much more accurately depicted as compared to your typical action plot.

– Alison Friedman Phillips, director of programs


Black Girls Must Die Exhausted book cover“Black Girls Must Die Exhausted” by Jayne Allen

I’m a huge fiction fan, and in early 2022 I made a commitment to myself to read more fiction by BIPOC authors – primarily women-of-color authors. One of those authors, who I found while perusing the fiction aisle in Target, was Jayne Allen. Her debut novel “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted” soon became one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. As a biracial/Black woman in her 30s, this book saaanng to my soul! The book centers around Tabitha Walker – a 33-year-old Black woman who has a solid career, a solid boyfriend, and a solid down-payment savings for her first home, that is, until she finds out that her biological clock is about to cease ticking. Now faced with a hard choice between her career and starting a family right away, she reflects on the never ending struggles Black women must endure throughout life. In so many ways I felt that I was Tabitha and Tabitha was me. I laughed, I cried, I commiserated, and I celebrated with all the characters of this book. And while I know that women of ALL backgrounds go through similar struggles, there also seems to be this extra layer as a brown woman that makes life just. so. dang. exhausting. If you’re looking for a fun, thoughtful, and modern read in 2023, I couldn’t recommend this book more!

– Erica Jackson, digital marketing specialist

Atlas of the Heart book cover

“Atlas of the Heart” by Brené Brown

“Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience” quickly rose to my favorite nonfiction read of 2022. This book defines emotions so that we can better capture what we’re really feeling and experiencing. I thought I had a good-enough vocabulary to express all the parts of me before this book; little did I know that I frequently just share the first words that come to mind. Do I feel confused, or perhaps, surprised? Am I feeling joy, or does relief better capture my emotion? Brown highlights examples of how our emotions link to meaningful connection, disconnection, or even “counterfeit connection” (connection between people over a certain topic or viewpoint that may feel so right but has no foundation in any one person’s authentic humanity – one of my favorite learnings from this book!). Essentially a glossary of the full range of human emotion, built from Brown’s 20+ years of grounded theory research, “Atlas of the Heart” has me feeling more intentional, more committed to knowing myself better, and belonging to myself better, so that I can forge meaningful connections with others around me. This read expanded my vocabulary of the human experience and painted a picture of the steps needed to create meaningful connections; no doubt, it will be one of my guides in connection for years to come!

– Crystal Ayala-Goldstein, programs manager

Category: WFCO Staff

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