Queer people have been making found families for as long as we’ve been around. For a lot of queer folks, found family and queerness are inextricably linked. Being queer has expanded my understanding of what family is. Building queer family continues to teach me new ways of being in the world and creating intimacy with other people. I often think of this quote from writer Ocean Vuong:
The books on this list embody alternative innovations. That’s what at the heart of so many queer found families: we build new worlds when the old one no longer fits. All of these books, in one way or another, remind me of Vuong’s assertion that being queer made him curious, that queerness is not a deprivation.
There are, happily, too many queer found family books to include them all in one list. So instead, I’ve chosen books across a wide variety of genres that all approach queer found family in different ways. Some are silly and lighthearted. Others are harrowing. In some, the creation of found families is at the center of the plot. In others, found family is just an unremarkable part of a character’s life. I’ve included books that highlight the joy of queer found families and books about found families in crisis. Found families are real, and we deserve books about them that are just as nuanced and complicated as books about any other kind of family.
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis (Historical Fiction)
I’m just going to come out and say it: this is my favorite queer found family book of all time. Set in 1970s and ’80s Uruguay, it’s the story of five queer woman who buy a small house in a remote beach town. Over the years, the house becomes their refuge, the only place they can escape the repressive dictatorship and truly be themselves. They fall in and out of love, weather fights among themselves, start businesses, change careers, and engage in activism. It’s a heartbreaking but transcendent novel, a queer family epic unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon (YA Fantasy)
After causing a terrible accident, trans witch Wyatt flees his home, the fae kingdom of Asalin. He’s made a good life for himself with a human family, so he’s not especially excited when his former best friend and betrothed, the fae prince Emyr, comes looking for him. Emyr begs Wyatt to return to Asalin, and when he does, he finds a whole lot of thorny politics, not to mention the ghosts of the past he thought he’d left behind forever.
American Hippo by Sarah Gailey (Alt History Western)
This rollicking adventure is set in an alternate American west, in which wild hippos — imported to be raised for meat — have overtaken the Mississippi River delta. Winslow Houndstooth is a hippo wrangler who’s been hired to reclaim the vast area from these feral hippos. He sets out to do so with a crew of outlaws, criminals, and misfits. American Hippo combines two novellas that follow the fates of this queer family as they travel through the swamps of Louisiana.
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (Contemporary Fiction)
Skye is a 39-year-old woman who runs a successful travel company. She’s been doing the same things for years: whenever anything difficult comes up, she gets on a plane to avoid it. But that all changes when 12-year old Vicky arrives in her life, announcing that she is Skye’s daughter via egg donation. As Skye gets to know Vicky (and falls in love with Vicky’s aunt Faye) she realizes that sometimes sticking around is worth it, and that family comes in more shapes than she’d ever imagined.
Blood, Marriage, Wine & Glitter by S. Bear Bergman (Essays)
Found family books aren’t just fiction! In this collection of essays, Bergman writes about the joys and challenges of queer found family. He touches on parenting, partnership, what it’s like to finally find your people, the ways queer relationships change over time, non-monogamy, and so much more. Bergman centers the experiences of queer and trans people in way that highlights just how sacred, and vital, found family is.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Science Fiction)
This whimsical sci-fi/fantasy mashup is about Katrina, a trans teenager running away from an abusive home. She finds unexpected family with a violin teacher who’s made a pact with the devil, and a family of alien refugees who run a donut shop. Katrina faces a lot of transphobia, which makes this one hard to read at times (it’s often funny, but it’s not fluffy). But ultimately, it’s a hopeful story about the power of music and queer family.
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hal (Romance)
Rosaline Palmer is a single mum who decides to go on a The Great British Baking Show-style reality TV show in the hopes it’ll give her some new direction and a fresh start. She’s not expecting to fall for anyone, let alone a soft-spoken electrician who makes her question her long-held beliefs about what’s important in life. Hilarious and heartwarming, this romcom is full of queer family, baking banter, and a whole lot of messy self-discovery.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (Contemporary Fiction)
While celebrating her PhD in Vegas, Grace makes an impulsive decision and gets married to someone she hardly knows. Back home, overwhelmed by pressure from her father to live up to his expectations for her life, she decides to fly to New York to meet her wife, Yuki. As they get to know each other, Grace and Yuki begin to figure out what they actually want — from each other, their families (found and otherwise), and their lives.
Spellhacker by M.K. England (YA Fantasy)
This YA heist adventure is set in a fantasy kingdom in which magic, once freely available, is now tightly controlled by one massive corporation. Diz and her three best friends have a business selling magic on the black market. When they discover a new kind of magic on what’s supposed to be their last heist job, it gets them into all kinds of trouble. They’re family, which means they love each other unconditionally — but the dangers they encounter put their relationships to the test.
And Then the Gray Heaven by RE Katz (Contemporary Fiction)
When their partner B dies suddenly, Jules sets out on a cross-country road trip to bury their ashes in the places that meant the most to them. The depth of their love for B comes alive on the page, as does the queer family they built together. This is a quiet but deeply moving novel about queer partnership, making art, grief, and the particular ways that queer people show up for each other, especially in the wake of heartbreak.
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera (Romance)
This is the first book in a romance series about a group of queer Afro Latinx and Caribbean men living in New York. In this one, Nesto, a Dominican American chef, moves to Ithaca to start a food truck, where he meets Jude, a white librarian whose family has lived in town forever. While the focus is obviously on the central couple, Nesto’s family of friends (and their families) is an integral part of the plot. It’s impossible to imagine this book without the supporting characters.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Contemporary Fiction)
Like much of Emezi’s work, this book refuses to be only one thing; just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it becomes something else. It opens with the death of Vivek, and then slowly winds backwards through his life, as told from the perspectives of the people who loved him. It’s about the expansiveness of queer and trans lives and the ferocity of queer friendship.
Once & Future by A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy (YA Science Fiction)
If you’re in need of a new spaceship queer found family to fall in love with, you’re going to want to run to this book. After crashing her ship on Old Earth, Ari is shocked to discover that she’s the latest incarnation of King Arthur, and it’s her mission to bring peace and harmony to the galaxy. That’s no easy task, especially since the galaxy is ruled by a ruthless corporation that only cares about profits. At least she has her found family to help her along the way.
Defekt by Nino Cipri (Fantasy)
Derek is a loyal employee of LitenVärld, the IKEA-like furniture store in which this charming and creative fantasy is set. His whole life revolves around work — until he’s asked to participate in a special overnight inventory, and realizes there’s a lot more to his world than he ever imagined. For the first time, he meets people who truly see him. Hilarious and strange, this story about monster furniture and alternate universes is the perfect blend of adventure, romance, and found-family feels.
Weekend by Eaton Hamilton (Contemporary Fiction)
Two queer couples spend a weekend together at their adjoining lake houses on a remote lake in northern Canada. Joe and Elliot have been together for nearly 20 years, but they’ve just had a baby, and it’s straining their relationship. Logan and Ajax have been dating for a year, and are trying to figure out what’s next for them. There are so many permeations of found family in this complicated book about parenthood, gender, desire, aging, friendship, and queer identity.
Real Queer America by Samantha Allen (Nonfiction)
Despite what mainstream media would have us think, queer and trans people don’t just live in big cities and northern states. In this warm and hopeful book, trans reporter Samantha Allen visits with queer people living in rural areas and conservative cities all over the country. They talk about the families they’ve built, the work they’re doing, their everyday lives, and what they love about their communities. Part memoir and part journalism, this book is a celebration of queer found family and all the shapes it takes.
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (Contemporary/Historical Fiction)
This brilliantly layered, dual-timeline novel is about the blurry places where bio family and found family intersect. Nadir is a Syrian American trans man living in contemporary New York, taking care of his aging grandmother and still grieving the death of his mother. When he finds the journal of a bird artist his ornithologist mother loved, it changes everything he thought he knew about where he came from and to whom he belongs. Beautifully written and full of characters that leap off the page, this novel is about hidden queer and trans histories, immigrant communities, art, and the power of telling your own story.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (Speculative Fiction)
At 15, Vern flees the religious community where she was raised, desperate to make a life for herself and her young twins away from the ghosts of her past. But the monsters she thought she’d left behind won’t leave her alone. This is a haunting and eerie novel about American racism, the legacies of violence, and what it means to be a monster. It’s an intense and sometimes harrowing read, which makes the moments of joy and refuge Vern finds with her new lover and her family all the more poignant.
The Love Study by Kris Ripper (Romance)
I have yet to read a Kris Ripper novel that isn’t about queer found family — it’s one of the great joys of picking up zir romances. In this one, Declan is finally feeling ready to work through his commitment issues and start dating again. He agrees to go on an advice show run by a popular YouTuber named Sidney, where he’ll go on a series of dates and report back. The dates turn out to be pretty meh, but Declan can’t stop thinking about Sidney.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Contemporary Fiction)
A lot of books about queer found family are full of warm and fuzzy feelings— and that’s great. Found family is a beautiful thing! But found families can be just as challenging, contentious, complicated, and painful as bio families. In this novel about three women — two trans and one cis — navigating the possibilities of raising a baby together, Peters delves into all the messy realities of queer families.
While I did my best to make sure this list included as many different kinds of queer found family books as possible, it’s still only 20 out of many. Try these five romance series that center found family, for starters. Also check out these found family YA books, and these must-read found family books (not all of the books on these lists are about queer found family, but some of them are).