People who know me know I’m a sucker for the found family trope. There’s so much comfort gleaned from it, and I know many of my friends feel the same. It’s beautiful, and heart-warming, but it can also be the start of wonderful conversations.
For those of you who don’t know what I mean by ‘found family’, it’s when a group of people become a family of choice. They’re mostly unrelated, and they come from different backgrounds, but find ways to bond and be there for each other. Found families happen in real life, obviously, and I’m sure many readers have their own families of choice, but there’s something special about the portrayal of them in fiction.
Found family is seen in any genre, but it’s most prominent in fantasy, or queer literature. In queer literature, the trope is often vital. It’s a reminder to the queer character that they’re not alone. This group of people of different gender or sexual identities, backgrounds, religions, etc, all come together to love and support each other, especially when no one else will. Think ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, which had a breathtakingly beautiful portrayal of found family. So many queer people find their families outside their flesh and blood, and Samra Habib summed it up beautifully in ‘We Have Always Been Here’, going so far as writing “To chosen families everywhere” as her dedication.
In fantasy, these families are born from loss or brutality. ‘Six of Crows’ features a group of criminal outcasts. They often threaten each other with violence, but they’re family. Other big name fantasy series starring this trope include ‘The Bone Season’ and ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’. These families help each other talk about their trauma, and help deal with it. It brings discussions of PTSD and anxiety to the forefront, showing readers there’s nothing to be ashamed about. Found families are a glimmer of hope in the brutality of fantasy – where the fantastical world may be teeming with pain, poverty, and war, there’s comfort brought to those in the thick of it all. They were once alone, but they’ve found their family who will fight to the death with them.
This trope is a reminder to everyone that they can talk about their pain, and they don’t have to go through anything alone. I know queer readers resonate with the trope, because they may have anxieties about their own family life. To them, it’s a reminder that if things go wrong, they can find a wonderful, accepting family elsewhere.