Portrait of Charles J. Finger by Robert Hobart Davis, c. 1922 (Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library).
The University of Arkansas Press announces the forthcoming publication of Shared Secrets: The Queer World of Newbery Medalist Charles J. Finger, by Elizabeth Findley Shores.
For nearly a century the British expatriate Charles Joseph Finger (1867-1941) was known primarily as an award-winning author of children’s literature. Finger’s untold story, however, is part of an international tapestry of shared secrets that connected a rich community of twentieth-century queer literati.
As a young man, Finger reveled in the easy homosociality of Victorian London, where he launched a literary society that was his version of the city’s ubiquitous private men’s clubs. Throughout his life, as he wandered from England to Patagonia to the United States, he tried to recreate similarly open spaces—such as his Arkansas outpost and Arcadian commune Gayeta—but it was in his idiosyncratic little magazine All’s Well where he successfully constructed a virtual social network for men where relationships flourished through the mail and in the columns of the journal.
Studying the publishing opportunities of the day, Finger used every means available to express his twin loves of literature and men. He produced an enormous body of work thanks to the vast capacity of middlebrow book publishers. His small body of allusive, suggestive, short fiction won some critical acclaim, but the Newbery Medal that made him a famous writer ended his development as an author of serious queer literature.
Shared Secrets is the story of Finger’s remarkable life, providing a rare look at gay community during a time when openly lived identities were prohibitively difficult to attain.
The book is currently estimated to be 230 pages and includes 16 images. Publication is scheduled for February 2021.
Elizabeth Findley Shores is an independent scholar living in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the author of On Harper’s Trail: Roland McMillan Harper, Pioneering Botanist of the Southern Coastal Plain.