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William B. Jones, Jr. Interviews Elizabeth Findley Shores: Shared Secrets and Charles J. Finger

Speaker: Elizabeth Findley Shores

For nearly a century, British expatriate Charles Joseph Finger (1867–1941) 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 would-be art colony 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 an inner circle of understanding readers.

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. Ultimately, the children’s book that won Finger a Newbery Medal ushered him into the public eye, 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.

Elizabeth Findley Shores, an independent scholar living in Little Rock, Arkansas, is the author of On Harper’s Trail: Roland McMillan Harper, Pioneering Botanist of the Southern Coastal Plain and Earline’s Pink Party: The Social Rituals and Domestic Relics of a Southern Woman.

William B. Jones, Jr. is the author of Petit Jean: A Wilderness Adventure (2016), an award-winning historical novella for young readers. He is also the author of the internationally recognized Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, 2nd Ed. (2011, 2017); at present, he is writing and revising an expanded and updated third edition of the comics-studies book.

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