Emotional stories with an outsider perspective about acceptance?
March 9, 2023 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I have always felt deeply connected to stories where characters find the place they fit, and forge meaningful connections with others, particularly when one or more of the characters is not "normal." Any recommendations?

Examples that have stuck with me for years:

- Steven Universe
- Joe Pera Talks to You
- Here is Greenwood (anime)
- Withnail and I (a bit different, but it resonates)

In particular, there is something about others respecting, tolerating, and even enjoying divergence.

The episode where Joe Pera gets hopped up on Starbucks for the first time and breaks from the script when reading church announcements to talk about The Who, and ultimately having the congregation sing along with him and just generally accept his eccentric naivete, is a balm for my soul.

In Steven Universe, I most enjoyed Perl and Amethyst's story arcs (though the whole thing is just stunning and beautiful).

And so on.

What other works can you think of that evoke the same kinds of feelings?

My examples are TV shows and movies, but suggestions from comics, novels, and other media formats are welcome.
posted by Nonce to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The novel "Among Others" by Jo Walton might work, about a teenage girl (with some magic powers) finding a friend group.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:16 PM on March 9 [5 favorites]

I adore Among Others!

Other things that come to mind:

Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novik
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Murderbot series by Martha Welks

and perhaps most seriously, most books by Becky Chambers. Start with The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet.
posted by elizabot at 11:57 PM on March 9 [5 favorites]

Thank you for asking this question. I love these kinds of stories as well.

Fiercely seconding Murderbot and Fangirl (the simon snow series). Also the Wayfarer books by Becky Chambers. Especially the second one, "A close and common orbit".

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Very satisfying story about an outsider with a lot of emotional intelligence and kindness)

The sequel, "Witness for the Dead" is also lovely - different main character, but equally satisfying.

First Test is the first in the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce - YA fantasy about a young girl who is the first female person officially allowed to train to be a knight. She has a special affinity for animals. This series is a comfort read for me.

you might enjoy my books as well:

We Broke the Moon A science fiction YA book "Hope Punk Science Fiction, a genre that focuses on friendship, love, and a hopeful, can-do approach to the challenges the characters face. It features a virtual reality game on a spaceship in deep space, teenage hackers, talking cats, and a rogue artificial intelligence."

And Ray and the Cat Thing which is what I wrote during the hard lockdown about all the things I longed for at the time, an escapist story about friendship and pancakes. Also features talking cats.
posted by Zumbador at 12:37 AM on March 10 [5 favorites]

Just about everything by Peter S. Beagle, especially A Fine and Private Place and The Folk of the Air. Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series.
posted by Rhedyn at 12:52 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

The Three Pines murder mystery series by Louise Penny are sort of a found family writ large into a village of very different and often difficult people who forge deep close bonds. The tv show is uneven but good, the books are great.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:00 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

I feel like I'm always recommending it, but Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, especially the first book. Both Mary Ann and Michael are outsiders in different ways and there's a lovely sense of found family in the stories.
posted by crocomancer at 2:49 AM on March 10 [6 favorites]

I thought immediately of Barbara Kingsolver’s 1988 novel The Bean Trees and the 1993 follow-up Pigs In Heaven. (Those links point to newer editions. They’re classics.)
Love those books. Definitely issues of fitting into a new place and found family, with characters who are unconventional or not “normal” in some way.
posted by SomethinsWrong at 2:57 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Antonia’s Line (1995) gathers these people into a family. Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:26 AM on March 10

Everyone loves Murderbot (and, I mean, me too!) but before that Martha Wells also wrote the Books of the Raksura and over the course of the series the outsider protagonist is absolutely swaddled in loving acceptance and it's beautiful.
posted by teremala at 3:36 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Local Hero
posted by rjs at 3:42 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

posted by Winnie the Proust at 4:18 AM on March 10

I've just finished The Forest of Wool and Steel, which does tick the respecting and accepting divergence thing in a very low key, nothing much happening, way. I thought it was lovely.
posted by sianifach at 6:17 AM on March 10

My Mister is a Korean TV drama that perfectly encapsulates this. It is a slow burn to get started, but so worth sticking with. It's one of the most gently beautiful, deeply touching pieces of art I have ever seen, in any genre.
posted by guessthis at 6:19 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Somebody Somewhere. The entire show is about being an outsider, even in your own family or hometown, and there are plots within it that will warm your community-as-family heart. I haven't seen Joe Pera Talks to You, but Somebody Somewhere has several scenes like the one you described.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:27 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Cimorene is a "not normal" princess who found her home among the dragons. She's the main character in the wonderful Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:30 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Seanan MacGuire: Every Heart a Doorway (first of a series of novellas).
posted by Coaticass at 7:07 AM on March 10

I’ve not finished it yet, but I’d say Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:24 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Unfamiliar with most of the suggestions (huzzah!), but the Murderbot series is definitely on point.
posted by Nonce at 9:35 AM on March 10

Came here to recommend Somebody Somewhere! A few others:

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is a queer supernatural romance, but I think the heart of the story is how a nerdy misfit finds her queer community in Brooklyn.

Dietland is a dark-humor version of this (the novel, I haven't watched the show).

I think this is a big part of the appeal of many of Michael Schur's shows. The Good Place is probably the best example.

Our Flag Means Death
posted by lunasol at 9:56 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

The movie Shoplifters by Kore-eda is fantastic.
posted by grobstein at 10:33 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
"An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours."

Extraordinary Attorney Woo - a Korean tv series about an autistic lawyer & her relationships with family & coworkers
posted by belladonna at 3:13 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Seconding Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

There was some element of this in Schitt's Creek. It starts out, like, the opposite of this, though, so you have to be willing to sit through this panoply of clashing characters in order to reach the payoff of genuine misfit love.
posted by eirias at 11:55 AM on March 11

I really enjoyed Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer.

Seconding The Goblin Emperor - I think I've read that three or four times now.
posted by kristi at 4:18 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]

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