NEW YORK, April 26, 2022 — Themes of healing, justice, service, building bridges, and overcoming steep odds are reflected in the 22 films, TV programs, and books for adults and young people being honored with Christopher Awards in the program’s 73rd year. Winners include beloved chef and PBS host Lidia Bastianich, Olympic gold medalist and advocate for sexual abuse victims Aly Raisman, and broadcaster and executive producer Robin Roberts. In addition, the PBS series Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small has earned the 2022 Christopher Spirit Award.
The Christopher Awards celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors, and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit” and reflects the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications, said, “After the hardships we’ve endured in the last two years, we need stories of hope, light, and unity to lift our spirits and guide us toward a brighter path.” Winners in the various categories are:
TV, Cable, & Streaming
Aly Raisman: Darkness to Light (Lifetime) follows the Olympic gold medalist as she meets fellow sexual abuse survivors and learns about their trauma, pursuit of justice, and ongoing journey toward healing. Amen-Amen-Amen (PBS) reveals the story behind the first Jewish community formed in a Muslim country in centuries (in Dubai), and the historic gift of a Torah scroll dedicated to the memory of an Arab-Muslim ruler. The House That Rob Built (Tubi) explores the legacy of Rob Selvig, the University of Montana’s pioneering women’s basketball coach, who turned his team into a model of inclusion and empowerment at a time when gender discrimination was the norm.
In Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds (PBS), chef Lidia Bastianich meets resilient Americans who have faced extraordinary challenges, found purpose in serving their communities, and turned their losses into accomplishments. The biopic Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime) profiles gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, who became an international success and sang at civil rights rallies in hopes that her music would inspire racial equality. Faith, family, and Christmas spirit permeate The Waltons’ Homecoming (The CW), which revisits Depression-era Virginia as 17-year-old John Boy feels torn between supporting his large family or pursuing his dream of being a writer.
In CODA (Apple TV+), the only hearing member of a deaf family must choose between helping her parents and brother run their fishing business or pursuing her dream of becoming a singer. Encanto (Disney Plus) presents an enchanting, animated tale about the Madrigal family, their unique magical gifts, and the reminder that each of us has inherent value regardless of our talents. The documentary Francesco (Discovery Plus) profiles Pope Francis and his efforts to bring the message of human dignity to the world by shining a light in places where political, social, economic and religious injustices are occurring.
Books for Adults
In Dorothy Wickenden’s The Agitators (Scribner/Simon & Schuster), Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright and Frances A. Seward cross racial and class divides to become friends who fight to abolish slavery and establish women’s rights and true equality for all. Every Deep-Drawn Breath (Scribner/Simon & Schuster) shares Dr. Wes Ely’s quest to return “humanity to doctoring” by tending to patients’ emotional and spiritual needs, as well as his effort to end a practice in hospital ICUs that left patients suffering from long-term brain problems. Daniel James Brown’s Facing the Mountain (Viking/Penguin Random House) revisits the heroism of Japanese Americans who fought for the U.S. during World War II, while their families at home faced unjust persecution and government internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
As an antidote to the dehumanizing ways in which we disagree in today’s world, Amanda Ripley’s High Conflict (Simon & Schuster) offers practical solutions and real-life examples on de-escalating tensions, practicing open-mindedness, and engaging in healthy discussions. In Learning to Pray (HarperOne/Harper Collins), Father James Martin invites both spiritual seekers and longtime believers to engage in “conscious conversation with God” by exploring various types of prayer practices and answering common questions on prayer’s effectiveness. Retired New York City Fire Department Chief Joseph Pfeifer’s Ordinary Heroes (Portfolio/Penguin Random House) recalls the heroism he witnessed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, the importance of working together in times of crisis, and the spiritual foundation of his selfless career.
Books for Young People
In The Boy Who Loved Everyone by Jane Porter, illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring (Preschool and up, Candlewick Press), a child who verbally expresses his love to classmates, animals, and nature learns that affection and caring can also be conveyed in unspoken ways. The seek-and-find book 10 Hidden Heroes by Mark K. Shriver, illustrated by Laura Watson, (Kindergarten and up, Loyola Press) invites children to identify the everyday heroes around them, recognize the importance of helping others, and focus on being kind themselves. Despite the genetic disorder that leaves her non-verbal and requiring a wheelchair, Elsie feels excitement at attending her first father-daughter dance and is bolstered by the love of her family in Dancing with Daddy by Anitra Rowe Schulte, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (ages 6 and up, Two Lions).
Writer and illustrator Don Tate scores a touchdown with Pigskins to Paintbrushes (ages 8 and up, Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS), the true story of Ernie Barnes, an art-loving African American child who faced racism and bullying on his road to becoming a professional football player and a painter. The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (ages 10 and up, Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House) presents an endearing, humorous story about family separation and the relationship between humans and animals as seen through the eyes of a lonely girl, an autistic boy, an elderly lottery winner, and a former circus elephant. In The Happiest Man on Earth (young adult, Harper Collins), Eddie Jaku, who passed away recently at age 101, recalls his teenage years in the Auschwitz concentration camp, his remarkable survival, and his commitment to living with gratitude and kindness to honor all those who died in the Holocaust.
2022 Christopher Spirit Award
When James Herriot moves from Glasgow, Scotland, to Darrowby, England, to begin his first-ever job as a veterinarian during the 1930s, he finds himself enchanted by the area’s lush countryside and eccentric-but-kind residents. Viewers of Masterpiece: All Creatures Great and Small (PBS) are left with the same impression in this reimagining of the classic TV series, inspired by the semi-autobiographical books by James Alfred Wight, who adopted James Herriot as his pen name. At a time when our modern world is roiled by war, disease, and division, the stories in All Creatures Great and Small remind us of life’s most important lessons: the bonds of community, the power of humor, the hope and resilience required to overcome struggles, the sacrifices we are called to make for a greater good, and the love that allows us to see the best in the people around us. For those reasons, the series has earned the 2022 Christopher Spirit Award.
The Christophers, a nonprofit founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing, radio, and awards programs. More information about The Christophers is available at www.christophers.org. [Editors: A complete list of winners is available on request.] Social media: #ChristopherAwards, Facebook: The Christophers / Twitter: @ChristophersInc