Op-ed: 10 Californians tell us what brought them joy in 2022

We asked some prominent Californians to do it share something who gave them comfort during this challenging year. Their responses remind us that difficulties cannot be ignored, but moments of joy can also be found—whether listening to music on the radio, the pages of a book, or watching a young child dance.


NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was a ray of hope in an otherwise difficult year. The images inspired awe and even disbelief in our family as we viewed them together. With so much in the news giving cause for sadness, concern, or outright concern, the images sent back from the telescope were welcome reminders that our reality is deeply strange and mysterious. And the fact that hundreds or thousands of people worked on it together for years and then actually shot it into space so it could look back billions of years ago is a reminder of what might still be possible if we believe in moving on to human ingenuity and cooperation.

Karl Ju is the author of Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope mirror assembly with an eye at the centre.

(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)


Live radio got me through That year, my favorite DJs and listeners streamed through the speakers of an old wooden stereo my ex-husband bought me at the Rubidoux Drive-In Swap Meet. Early morning, it’s Jimmy Reyes on Old School 104.7 FM, with favorites like “Angel Baby” and “More Bounce to the Ounce” to start the day. At 10 I switch to Marci Wiser on 95.5 KLOS-FM for classic rock and her weird timing with the contractors, delivery drivers and working women like me who request songs for lunchtime boot camp with themes like Speed, Blue, Rain or Free Journey. When Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter” or the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” are on, I talk to my brother, who died in 2002.

I leave the radio when Marci does at 3 because I have to take care of my elderly mother, but at night I sit in the same chair where my three daughters watched me pay bills and grade papers to Art Laboe Killer playing oldies. California’s heart was broken when Laboe, 97, died in October; I had just typed the final pages of my new book, in which he is a character, his decades-long devotion on the phone, wives calling husbands far away, friends dreaming of the good old days when we cruised or partied at the local park . Laboe lives on thanks to 104.7 FM, with Joanna Morones and Old School Becky Lu curating the Love Zone, playing old Laboe but also the voices that still call out to Art to wish Art good night.

I don’t have Spotify and I’ve never listened to a podcast – sounds crazy, but I love the spontaneity of live radio, the DJs in charge and the listeners. Even when I’m alone, with live radio, I’m with my people day and night, other people choose songs and listen like me, in the light or in the dark.

Suzanne Straight is a writer based in Southern California. Her latest novel is called Mecca.


It would be easy to say that opening the Cheech would give me all the comfort one could ask for, and you were right. But my most comforting moment was watching a 4-year-old girl dance in front of a giant lenticular grid at the museum. She danced a duet with her own reflection. Completely enraptured, she almost seemed to disappear into the work of art, to become one with it. I thought at that moment that there is hope for humanity and that art has served its purpose.

Cheech Marin is an actor, writer and art collector. He is a Founding Contributor to the Riverside Art Museum’s Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture.


I read a lot of books this year, but none has captivated and intrigued me like Egyptian-American writer Noor Naga’s new novel. Her book If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English tells the story of an American living in Cairo and her love affair with the city and with a broken Arab Spring survivor. Naga’s prose is stunning and sharp, a dagger aimed at the injustices and absurdities of the Empire. Her novel made me grateful for literature and all its gifts.

Hector Tobar is the author of the novels The Last Great Road Bum and The Barbarian Nurseries and other books.


When the sun rises Every morning over the Berkeley Hills, a small east-facing window in my house frames a thicket of bamboo. On foggy Bay Area mornings, I watch as wan light breaks through the cloud cover, illuminating jewel-like droplets of water condensing on these gnarled reeds. In the midst of a chaotic year, I have found peace and a sense of quiet joy in pausing in those fleeting yet restful moments to commune with our natural world.

Jennifer Doudna is a biochemist at UC Berkeley, founder of the Innovative Genomics Institute and Nobel Laureate for co-inventing CRISPR technology.

An illustration of a bamboo thicket with sparkles in the air between the stems.

(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)


2022, my wife, Trini and I spent a week on the Dine Nation (Navajo Reservation). The Dine suffered a lot, but we found family, healthy traditions, human dignity. My own indigenous roots are with the Mexica and Rarámuri in Mexico. Indigenous cosmology, as valid today as it was in the past, has helped me provide perspective over the past two years as we experienced the worst pandemic in 100 years, the worst inflation in 40 years, what are like the most acute races – and class differences and Major feels threats against democracy. But as things unravel, we can reweave the venerable pillars of love, peace and justice at higher levels. We must work to recognize what must die—things that hold us back in our individuals, families, communities, and nations—and allow what must be born. All things fabricated—such as borders, belief systems, economics, and politics—should be reconsidered and questioned as we move toward common well-being.

Luis J. Rodriguez is the most recent author of From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings of a Native Xicanx Writer.


before the pandemic, my son Ellison (then 6) and I were on tour to promote a children’s book he had dreamed up called Chicken of the Sea about bored chickens who run off to become pirates. Then COVID-19 halted all in-person book events. But in the last few months we have been able to get back on the road. I love spending time with Ellison and seeing the world through his fresh eyes. I hope that all parents and children will have similar opportunities: to be creative and happy together, to share something precious and to share with the world and other people. A book tour is a unique experience, but we all have opportunities to give to one another. I hope that the gift my son receives from this, along with loving memories of his father, is learning to give from himself.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a writer and Professor of English at USC. His debut novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

An illustration of a pirate ship in the form of a chicken.

(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)


Throughout the past year Nothing has given me more comfort and joy than my family. Before I even considered running for mayor, family and friends began planting the seed—including my daughter, Yvette, and her husband, Michael. The city they grew up in was in crisis – 40,000 people slept on the streets every night. I embarked on an inspiring and challenging campaign – a campaign that I could not have carried out without my daughters, son and grandchildren by my side. The joy of my children, especially my grandchildren, fills me with hope for the future of this city. All our young people have ever known are sidewalk tents—but I take comfort in knowing it doesn’t have to be that way. And it won’t.

Karen Bass is Mayor of Los Angeles.


After the horrible moments The pandemic saw our Encuentros Orchestra, made up of top musicians from El Sistema-inspired programs from 22 countries, playing together at the Hollywood Bowl. At the same time we had them YOLA National Festival. We were surrounded by young people. It was the best that was possible.

Gustav Dudamel is Music and Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt and Lilly Disney Chair.

An illustration of a violin on a yellow background.

(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)


For almost 38 years I’ve had the privilege of walking with gang members and felons and they changed my heart. At the end of a conversation with me in my office at Homeboy Industries, Joseph punctuates it by saying, “Life removes the blindfold.” He is the form of God’s heart.

I ask him, “Yes, but what do you see when the blindfold falls?” After his years of incarceration, gang involvement, and heroin addiction, I suspected he would say shame, guilt, the “error of my ways.” regret. “What do you see, Joseph?” He pats his chest. “I see my goodness.” “Yes,” I tell him. “It’s unshakable.” I am grateful to Joseph for that reminder.

“And the soul felt its worth,” as the Christmas carol tells us. There is a medicine woman’s prayer that wisely says, “I will not heal you for I see you in your wholeness. I will walk with you through the darkness while you remember your light.” The blindfold falls. All hearts are changed.

Gregory J Boylea Jesuit priest, is the CEO and founder of Homeboy Industries in LA

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-12-25/californians-comfort-joy-2022 Op-ed: 10 Californians tell us what brought them joy in 2022

Alley Einstein

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