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Funny Boy
Cover of Funny Boy
Funny Boy
A Novel
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An evocative coming-of-age novel about growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict—one of the country's most turbulent and deadly periods.

Arjie is "funny."

The second son of a privileged family in Sri Lanka, he prefers staging make-believe wedding pageants with his female cousins to battling balls with the other boys. When his parents discover his innocent pastime, Arjie is forced to abandon his idyllic childhood games and adopt the rigid rules of an adult world. Bewildered by his incipient sexual awakening, mortified by the bloody Tamil-Sinhalese conflicts that threaten to tear apart his homeland, Arjie painfully grows toward manhood and an understanding of his own "different" identity.

Refreshing, raw, and poignant, Funny Boy is an exquisitely written, compassionate tale of a boy's coming-of-age that quietly confounds expectations of love, family, and country as it delivers the powerful message of staying true to one's self no matter the obstacles.

An evocative coming-of-age novel about growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict—one of the country's most turbulent and deadly periods.

Arjie is "funny."

The second son of a privileged family in Sri Lanka, he prefers staging make-believe wedding pageants with his female cousins to battling balls with the other boys. When his parents discover his innocent pastime, Arjie is forced to abandon his idyllic childhood games and adopt the rigid rules of an adult world. Bewildered by his incipient sexual awakening, mortified by the bloody Tamil-Sinhalese conflicts that threaten to tear apart his homeland, Arjie painfully grows toward manhood and an understanding of his own "different" identity.

Refreshing, raw, and poignant, Funny Boy is an exquisitely written, compassionate tale of a boy's coming-of-age that quietly confounds expectations of love, family, and country as it delivers the powerful message of staying true to one's self no matter the obstacles.

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About the Author-
  • Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Funny Boy, his first novel, won the W.H. Smith/ Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Lambda Literary Award in the United States. He is the author of Cinnamon Gardens and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, and the editor of an anthology, Story-wallah! A Celebration of South Asian Fiction. His books have been published in the United States, United Kingdom, and India, and in translation.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 4, 1996
    Set in Sri Lanka, this poignant coming-of-age novel charts a boy's loss of innocence as he grapples with family conflict, political realities and his homosexuality. At seven, narrator Arjun Chelvaratnam hates sports and enjoys wearing his aunt's jewelry and playing the role of bride in imaginary weddings; yet his playmates' taunts of ``girlie-boy'' and ``faggot'' don't seem all that different from the monickers that attach to other children (e.g., ``fatty-boom-boom'' and ``Diggy-Nose''). But when Arjun enters his teens, his worried father, a wealthy hotelier, sends him to a strict private academy, hoping it will force his son ``to become a man.'' Instead, Arjun, rebelling against a sadistic principal, strikes up an intense friendship with a fellow renegade pupil, Shehan, who is rumored to be gay. After their first sexual encounter. Arjun's immediate feelings are anger and guilt, but he gradually comes to accept his sexuality and his love for Shehan. The story is shot through with the tensions and bloody violence between Sri Lanka's Buddhist Sinhalese majority and its Hindu Tamil minority. In loving Shehan, a Sinhalese, Arjun, who is Tamil, breaks two taboos. Retribution follows, and in 1983 Arjun and his family migrate to Canada as penniless refugees. With deft humor and a keen eye, Selvadurai, who was born in Sri Lanka and now lives in Toronto, captures his protagonist's difficult passage into his own identity-of which his homosexuality is just one component. And it is with deep, wistful feeling that he ties that story to larger themes of family and country. Author tour.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2015

    This Lambda Literary Award-winning 1994 coming-of-age story tracks a boy from a wealthy Tamil family in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from ages seven to 14, culminating in the 1983 Sinhala-Tamil riots.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus Reviews "A marvelous first novel about growing up gay in Sri Lanka...from a brilliant...writer whose next book cannot arrive here quickly enough."
  • Publishers Weekly "[A] poignant coming-of-age novel.... With deft humor and a keen eye, Selvadurai...captures his protagonist's difficult passage into his own identity-of which his homosexuality is just one component. And it is with deep, wistful feeling that he ties that story to larger themes of family and country."
  • New York Times Book Review "Selvadurai writes as sensitively about the emotional intensity of adolescence as he does about the wonder of childhood."
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A Novel
Shyam Selvadurai
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