Its freezing outside and the approaching holidays are stressful, but hey–at least there’s comfort in the routine of weekly memes. You know the drill: Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s TTT is a “Thankful Freebie,” and while I initially wanted to do something cheesy and happy like “books I’m thankful to have in my life” or something, I started thinking about big things we associate with Thanksgiving…like family. Honestly, not all families are great; there are racist grandparents and cruel siblings and overly critical parents and just generally shitty people. Even my family has quite a bit of its own drama. But we’ve got nothing on these fictional families, which I am so incredibly glad I don’t belong to.
1. The Parrish family (The Raven Cycle)
Robert Parrish is an abusive asshole who deserves a slow and painful death for the misery he inflicted on his wife and son, and his wife passively enables his behavior. Enough said. (I could go on, but…spoilers.)
2. The Shadow Clan (Shadow of the Fox)
While not technically a biological family, being part of the Shadow Clan necessitates giving up connections to your family and your own life in favor of serving the clan as a whole. Tatsumi was asked to do unspeakable things by Lady Hanshou and other higher-ups in the clan, and he learned to expect that letting his guard down would only ever lead to pain.
3. Reen (Mistborn)
Vin doesn’t really have much of a family, but her brother Reen constantly told her that you couldn’t trust anyone because everyone will ultimately betray you. His cruelty made it impossibly hard for her to live a full and healthy life after his death.
4. The Dursleys (Harry Potter)
I mean, obviously. They locked Harry in a cupboard under the stairs. They borderline starved him. They forcibly kept him from seeing or receiving mail from his friends. And so on, and so forth. Even if they ultimately made some semblance of a reconciliation, I’m glad they’re not my family (especially, like, that time when Petunia put everyone on a diet where their breakfast was only half a grapefruit? Yeah, I couldn’t do that.)
5. The Debacker family (I Wish You All the Best)
Ben’s life gets upended when their parents refuse to accept the fact that they are nonbinary and use they/them pronouns. Their parents actually kick them out of the house right at the start of the book. As the story unfolds, the amount of manipulation and mental and emotional abuse those parents inflicted both on Ben and on Hannah, Ben’s sister, the more it becomes apparent that they’ve created a highly toxic environment that is detrimental to their children’s mental health. On a personal note, this book actually made me realize a lot of the things that are pretty messed up and not-okay in my own family; sometimes seeing it from the outside makes the wrongness more apparent, I guess.
(To clarify, re: my own family – I realized that line could come across as concerning. I am only referring to parents being controlling/manipulative and the verbal/mental/emotional harm they inflict, as well as a parent not accepting a child coming out or doing anything that deviates from the status quo or the “perfect family” image that they’ve so carefully cultivated. Don’t worry, guys–we’re adults now, and we’re getting better at recognizing and ignoring those things.)
6. The Gilmores (Gilmore Girls)
I realize this may come as a shock for two reasons, but I have rationale for both. First: “The Gilmores are from TV, not books!” True, but earlier this year I read and reviewed the book Gilmore Girls: A Cultural History, and if scholarly literature is written about them, then I think they count. And second: “But they are so fun and love each other so much!” Yes, but there’s a lot of manipulation in that family, especially financially (from Richard and Emily) and emotionally (from Lorelai toward all of her boyfriends, especially Christopher and Luke). Plus, Rory and Lorelai are almost disgustingly codependent, and yet also pretty dang selfish. They’re fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to be one of them.
7. The Garcia family (We Set the Dark on Fire)
The whole premise of “family” in this society is pretty awful. A man gets two wives: a Primera (his intellectual equal who helps with running the house and all his political/career dealings) and a Segunda (his “opposite,” to comfort him, bear and raise his children, and generally just look pretty). Add in the fact that this particular husband is a total jerk and cruel to his people even while acting not-horrible toward his wives, and it should be obvious why I’m not really feeling this one.
8. Nancy’s family (Every Heart a Doorway)
They can’t accept anything about their daughter?? She returns from literally an alternate world that is an Underworld of sorts and wishes she could go back, so they make fun of her. Fine. But then even when they send her to Eleanor West’s school, they don’t let her make her own choices–they even take her preferred dark clothing out of her bag and replace it with bright colors because they want her to be more cheerful. Like, guys…she’s 17. She can make her own decisions about clothing, for crying out loud.
9. The Montagues (both from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue AND Romeo and Juliet)
In the former, the father is unkind and physically abusive and not accepting of his son’s bisexuality (even if this was normal for that historical time period, it’s still not cool…), and he won’t support his daughter’s desire to become a doctor, either. In the latter…well, you know the story of the whole blood feud and whatnot.
10. The Greek gods (general mythology, plus retellings like Circe)
Seriously, they all sleep with each other, and each other’s kids, and they curse each other and hurt mortals and are super vain and play power games and Zeus will have sex with basically anything and anyone, and no amount of power could make me ever want to enter that minefield.
What about you?
Any least-favorite fictional families that I didn’t include? Do you actually like some of these? Got any holiday family horror stories? Leave a comment and let me know 😊
Much love and lots of thanks,