The Rainbow & The Olive Branch | By HF Brownfield

Written by local author HF Brownfield

For me, queerness feels like a cheerful hum. An innocent tune that has always bounced around inside my chest. Some days I don’t even notice it. Then sometimes – without warning – the tune morphs into an emotional dirge. A heavy-handed reminder of the loss I’ve known since choosing pride over that musty old closet.  

I’ve learned the hard way that there is great peace in curiosity. Dogma was a burden I’m glad to be rid of. As a creative, I cherish the idea of exploring perspectives that are different from mine. I like to keep a satchel full of olive branches handy for the moments when this curiosity uncovers hard conversations that challenge my perspective or the perspectives of my community. Pride will thrive when we can learn to embrace these conversations with grace rather than going at it like a juicy episode of Real Housewives.  

When it comes to my bookshelf, I gravitate toward reads that help me suspend immediate judgment in favor of a philosophical and emotional expansion. Our communities are in desperate need of the ability to connect and learn from one another. As a non-binary individual who is often misunderstood, there are several books that have helped me leave my armor behind so I can navigate the world with a more compassionate heart.   

Books that have inspired me 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 

Miller’s wordcraft is intoxicating. This enchanting retelling of the Trojan War from the endearing perspective of Patroclus had me hooked from the first page. It’s a story of love unbound by gender. It’s a visceral exploration of heartbreak and the temptation to conform to norms for the sake of peace.  

TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read 😊): A timeless, deliciously tragic, queer love story. Perfect for lovers of artful prose. 

The Power of a Positive No by William Ury 

Queerness can sometimes make one feel as though they’re an ambassador to the United Nations. Emotional algebra is hard. Navigating Bigotry 101 isn’t taught in most high schools. This book has helped me learn to “go to the balcony” when emotional roadblocks emerge. It has helped me craft communications when I’ve faced hard conversations with queer-fearing loved ones. William is a master at negotiation, mature solutioning and empathy. This book is a great read for anyone interested in building better communication with people who have stark perspective differences, whether in their work or personal life.  

TLDR: If you want to build a bridge, leave your axe behind. Product conflict is a real thing and it can be done delicately and with rich kindness and resolve.  

Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by Kathy Baldock 

This one is for my queer pals who grew up in the church and lose sleep at night wondering whether they must abandon church forever if they’re going to embrace their truth. I grew up with Romans 1 ringing in my ears. It was my father’s favorite passage from the pulpit. Paul sure knew how to get us all swept up in fear and self-loathing. 

As someone who has wrestled with faith and queerness, Walking the Bridgeless Canyon was salve on my scars. Kathy is a scholar who shares her journey from queer-phobic Christian to staunch ally. Her work here has helped to ground my approach when initiating delicate conversations with loved ones—no nasty words necessary.  

TLDR: Queerness and religion can coexist. This book is a history lesson into the why and how. 

Books that have inspired my work 

The Practice by Seth Godin 

There’s a cultural misconception that creativity is a mystical force that a lucky few are born with. The Practice dives into the not-so-romantic discipline that art requires. Shipping good work means making micro commitments every day. It means doing the thing when you’d rather be staring at a screen. It requires us to become friends with vulnerability. This book is a must-read for creatives of all stripes.  

TLDR: Creativity isn’t a magical power. Anyone can become a disciplined artist if they’re willing to put in the work.  

Fusion for Beginners and Experts by Rebecca Sugar 

As someone who grew up in a nomadic lifestyle, the principles of long-term friendship don’t always come easily for me. It’s simple, really. And this darling book by Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar breaks it down in a beautiful way. It’s a bedtime book that will remind littles of the basics and encourage grown ups to remember that community doesn’t have to be rocket science. Rebecca’s non-binary, queer perspective shines through in this quick story snack. 

TLDR: This book is so short that, if you’ve made it to the end of this article, you’ve already stayed with me longer than the time this book would require.  

HF Brownfield is a curious human, storyteller, illustrator, and parent of three extraordinary offspring. Once upon a time, Brownfield earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Since then, their career has taken many surprising twists and turns to places like the coffee world, technology, and marketing. When they aren’t writing books, they work in the financial industry and are always scanning the world for creative inspiration (a practice which makes board room meetings exceptionally exciting). Brownfield is often found roaming green fields, purple fields, and brown fields in the Pacific Northwest with their kids, partner, and fur babies. They’re determined to find Sasquatch one day, but so far he’s still winning at hide and seek. Their hobbies include consuming good coffee and embarrassing their children with the silliest dad jokes ever written. 

HF Brownfield is co-author with Kayla Coombs of the Quinnelope graphic novels, including Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe and Quinnelope and the Mystery of the Missing Moon, both published by Simon and Schuster and great for middle readers (ages 8-12) who love graphic novels like The InvestiGators, Dog Man, and Narwhal and Jelly

Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe by HF Brownfield and Kayla Coombs

On order at the library – it will be available for checkout soon!

In the meantime, you can purchase this copy at Aunties Bookstore or Wishing Tree Books!

Quinnelope and the Mystery of the Missing Moon by HF Brownfield and Kayla Coombs

Release Date: June 11, 2024!

Pre-order a copy at Aunties Bookstore or Wishing Tree Books

Copies will be available for checkout at the library after its release date.