Shared Secrets: The Queer World of Newbery Medalist Charles J. Finger (forthcoming from the University of Arkansas Press, February 2021), is the story of British expatriate Charles Joseph Finger (1867–1941). For nearly a century, he was best known as an award-winning author of children’s literature. In Shared Secrets, Elizabeth Findley Shores relates Finger’s untold story, exploring the secrets that connected the author to an international community of twentieth-century queer literati.
As a young man, Finger reveled in the easy homosociality of his London polytechnical school, where he launched a student literary society in the mold of the city’s 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 Gayeta, his artists’ commune in Arkansas. But it was through his idiosyncratic magazine All’s Well that he constructed his most successful social network, writing articles filled with coded signals and winking asides for the inner circle.
Capitalizing on the publishing opportunities of the day, Finger used every means available to express his twin loves—literature and men. He produced an enormous body of work, and his short, semiautobiographical fiction won some critical acclaim. Ironically, the children’s book he wrote to support his arcadian lifestyle won a Newbery Medal, ushering him into the public eye and ending his development as an author of serious queer literature.
Shared Secrets is both the story of Finger’s remarkable, adventurous life and a rare look at a community of gay writers and artists who helped shaped twentieth-century American culture, even as they artfully concealed their own identities.
On the cover:
The cover was designed by April Leidig.