Editors’ Picks: The Best Narratively Stories of 2022

From badass female cookie bakers to a missing persons investigator who went missing herself, don't miss our team's favorite stories from the past year.

Editors’ Picks: The Best Narratively Stories of 2022

2022 was….a year. But like always, the Narratively team found a safe haven in our storytelling. We published dozens of stories, from an epic historical piece by two writers who share a decades-long friendship, to our inaugural Spring Memoir Prize winner, whose moving story is the first piece she’s ever published as an adult. A few of us on the Narratively team are parents, and the old adage says it’s impossible to pick your favorite kid. Well, the same goes for storytelling, and we’re reminded of this every December, when our editors go through a similarly implausible struggle to pick a few of our favorite pieces. Rest assured, though, that each of these stories below are very well worth a read.

Revolución on the Cookie Factory Floor 

Story by Sofia Kuan and Facundo Iglesia

Illustration by Yunuen Bonaparte

The new owner of Argentina’s de facto national treat stopped paying his majority-female workforce — so they seized control of the entire operation.

“To me, there’s nothing more exciting than a story that’s politically aware, stars some badass women and paints a picture of a cookie that looks so delicious, it’s got us salivating for it in real life. We’ve got drama, we’ve got intrigue, and we’ve got dessert. What more could you ask for?” – Ruby Rosenthal, Editorial and Development Assistant

My High School’s Secret Fantasy Slut League

Story by Lena Crown

Illustration by Vicky Leta

Our wealthy California school had a hookup game where boys “drafted” girls, then tracked their sex acts. A decade later, my classmates still debate whether “FSL” was harmless teenage hijinks or a symptom of toxic rot in our elite enclave.

“Lena Crown obviously grabs us with the headline here, but her immersive story goes so much deeper than that. Ten years after a scandal rocked her high school, Lena went back as a reporter and got her classmates to really open up, not only about what happened, but about how they feel now and what they wish they’d done differently. The result is a raw and emotional piece that’s a must-read for anyone who’s ever been in high school. Vicky Lee’s stunning illustrations and Yunuen Bonapate’s amazing animations help bring this piece to life.” – Brendan Spiegel, Editorial Director and Co-Founder

“Even from just her pitch, Lena Crown’s idea to investigate her high school scandal stood out from the rest. In between recalling her own experiences and interviewing people involved in the “Fantasy Slut League,” her feature pulls back at what was a scandal in her town at the time.” – Julia Métraux, Contributing Editor

Punk Rock Freaks in the Heart of Hollywood 

Story by Shawna Kenney

Illustration by Yunuen Bonaparte

It was the era when video killed the radio star, when glitz and glamor and bubblegum pop dominated the airwaves. Meanwhile, a handful of musicians and misfits were subverting the pop culture narrative forever.

“What I love about this story is it takes what we already know about the L.A. punk scene and peels back the layers to reveal the obscure details of this world: the unexpected characters on the scene (Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s!); the backstory of Darby Crash’s suicide; the first shows of now well-known bands; the minutiae of living in punk houses; just how truly new and foreign it was to be a punk back then. In this piece, Shawna makes me nostalgic for a time I was not actually present for, but feel like I witnessed firsthand.” – Jesse Sposato, Deputy Editor 

The Deep South’s Dames of Dildos

Story by Hallie Lieberman

Photo by Abraham Rowe

In a Bible-belt state where sex toys stores are illegal, a church-going grandma, enterprising mom and sassy granddaughter build a booming business hawking penis pumps and butt plugs—and helping every person find their path to pleasure.

“It’s hard to think of a message that’s more refreshing in its positivity and renegade in spirit than the core theme of this story: no matter what you look like, who you vote for, or who you sleep with, you’re worthy of pleasure in life. In a part of our country not necessarily known for its progressiveness, this little sex toy shop in Alabama called Sugar and Spice Adult Novelties is a safe haven. But even for those of us who live far away, its values and inclusivity should serve as a beacon.” – Noah Rosenberg, Founder & CEO 

Inside the Queer-Centric Frat That Dared to Question What a Frat Even Is 

Story by Caroline Catlin

Illustration by Ryan Raphael

Students say the University of Michigan’s Sigma Phi chapter is a vital, lifesaving space, and that going all-gender was the obvious thing to do. The national organization responded by suing them.

“If I asked you to picture a fraternity, images of bros shotgunning beers and gleefully hazing each other would probably flash through your mind. But frats aren’t always dominated by so much machismo. This bold and refreshing piece by Caroline Catlin tells the unconventional story of the University of Michigan’s Sigma Phi frat opening their doors to all genders…and being sued for it. Centering on a gay member who comes into his own in this fun, inclusive Greek community, the story skillfully walks the line between the personal and political, gripping the reader with an emotional narrative while also demonstrating how fighting institutional patriarchy is absolutely necessary. Also, I just love that this story is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes video from the illustrator, giving us a peek at how his evocative art is made!” – Julianna Björkstén, Contributing Editor 

Living with a Skinhead, While Living in My Brown Skin

Story by Anna Grundström

Illustration by Chris Kim

As an Indonesian adoptee in Sweden, I was alarmed when my new stepbrother started dabbling in white supremacy. I didn’t realize how far it had gone until I was lying in a dark field, getting kicked in the chest with a steel-toed boot.

“Chilling yet beautifully written essay on the insidious nature of xenophobia and racism, especially heartbreaking when it happens within a family. In a very personal way, the writer shines the light on the dangers of what is happening globally, from institutionalized marginalization to the othering of immigrants. This was our Spring Memoir Prize winner, serving as a prime example of a story we might not have seen at Narratively otherwise. I was left wanting to read more.” – Shawna Kenney, Contributing Editor

A Gilded Age Tale of Murder and Madness

Story by Kay Adams and Nancy Markey

Illustration by Camilla Sucre

In opulent seaside Newport, a wealthy and beloved Black businessman turns up dead. The prime suspect is his son-in-law, a dashing medical student set to become one of the country’s first Black surgeons. The resulting trial will tear the town in two.

“This year, I especially loved A Gilded Age Tale of Murder and Madness, for its rich history and complex characters, as well as its epic scope and seemingly endless twists and turns.” – Joe Lugo, Director of TV and Film Development

The Missing Persons Investigator Who Went Missing Herself

Story by Mark Oprea

Illustration by Yunuen Bonaparte

Andrea Knabel spent countless hours searching for missing people. Then one day she was the one who disappeared. Her family and friends—and half the internet—are still searching.

“The story about the disappearance of Andrea Knabel shook me to my core. I will forever share this story with all my female friends as a cautionary tale of how easily a woman can disappear without a trace in this country. Beyond the horrors of the disappearance, this story also sheds a light on what other women are doing to find our own. It gives me hope that there are people out there looking for those who are gone but not forgotten.” – Yunuen Bonaparte, Photo Editor