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Funny Boy Paperback – Oct 11 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Emblem Editions (Oct. 11 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771079516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771079511
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Although this falls into the crowded coming-of-age category, Selvadurai adds the foreign, funny, and unusual in a novel that is as personal as it is political. While growing up in Sri Lanka amid Tamil and Sinhalese conflicts, Arjie, a young boy who likes to play with dolls and girls, observes the social constraints abhorred and perpetuated within his own family and in society at large. Through the details of family life, the intimacies and exchanges, Selvadurai, much like E. M. Forster, reveals truths subtly, with poignancy and grace. Selvadurai has created an endearing character in Arjie, an impish boy who is always in trouble with his rigid parents, yet gains the confidence of "outsiders," those attempting to rebel against foolish social injustices: an aunt almost ready to reject family and social pressure by marrying a Sinhalese man; a schoolboy who is sexually abused by the head prefect and who wants to disclose his own homosexuality. Arjie's witnessing of prejudice and violence shatters his security by degrees, awakening him to the acceptance of his own gay identity and his isolation from both his family and conventional society. Janet St. John --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Another reviewer has pointed out that although this book usually appears in the Gay category, in fact the gay sections are a relatively minor part of the novel. That's true, and therefore if you're looking for a gay coming-of-age story and that's all, you're likely to be disappointed. Also, the coming-of-age part of the book isn't that original (boy has a crush on older schoolboy who turns out to be gay, various wet encounters follow - someone should have taken out a patent on that story line).
The true worth of this book is in its descriptions of the effects of the racial violence in Sri Lanka on a Tamil family. The author succeeds in conveying the fear and despair which resulted from the senseless hatred spawned by the Tamil-Sinhalese racial disputes. Amid all this, moments of humor are carefully and sensitively woven into the story. I'd recommend the book for these reasons.
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Format: Paperback
Touching, inspirational, moving, funny, heartwarming, uplifting, sad, heartbreaking. Not many books can convey such a wide range of emotions so effectively. It's the story of an immensely likable young boy growing up in Sri Lanka in turbulent times trying to understand himself and make sense of his crazy world. He struggles to understand the unspoken "rules" and learn how to succeed and find happiness within the restrictions placed upon him. This book is beautifully written with six chapters, each representing a separate passage of time. (I found this to be very effective, although it did leave me with questions!) The setting is beautiful, the characters convincing and the dialogue is believable. You will root for Arjie! I found the following passage from page 267 particularly insightful and relevant given the current political climate, "How was it that some people got to decide what was correct or not, just or unjust? It had to do with who was in charge; everything had to do with who held power and who didn't." I strongly recommend this book. (I would definitely purchase a sequel should there be one, and I plan on reading Selvadurai's next book "Cinnamon Gardens".) You won't want to or be able to put this book down!
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Format: Paperback
I am a librarian (at least i think I am, I have the degree but am working here at a dotcom). Anyhow, classifying and cataloguing is a big part of what we do. Unfortunately, when it comes to this novel, people seemd to content to only classify it as gay fiction, and that is where I found it in my local ..., in the gay fiction section. This is such a tragedy to me as this novel is about so much more. In fact, the homosexuality is only a small (albeit important) part of one of the most entertaining and well written "bildungsromans" that I have read in a long while. Selvadurai deftly describes his childhood within a well to do Sri Lankan family, and the devastation that the political upheavals (between the Sinhalese and the Tamils) made on his life. This book describes the horrors visited upon his family (the fate of the grandparents is too horrible to even try and contemplate)while the narrator comes to consciousness in many ways.
I went from being heartily amused in the first chapter about children playing (so, so funny,..and so relatable to anybody who was ever terrorized by a tyrannical fat cousin)to being deeply saddened by the end of the novel, when Sri Lanka is no longer his idyllic home, but rather a place of danger that he and his family must escape. I do not hesitate in giving this novel five stars (despite the fact that it is very episodic) because it is so well written. Selvadurai is a huge talent, and I have Cinnamon Gardens waiting to be read at home.
I urge everybody to read this book, even if you aren't comfortable enough going to the previously unexplored "gay fiction" section. Books like this are an increasingly rare breed, so we may as well search thenm out while we can.
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By A Customer on Dec 7 1999
Format: Paperback
Life as seen through a young boy's eyes, Funny Boy, is narrated with an honesty that brings laughs and alternatively, immense sadness. Arjie, the protagonist in the story, captures the dilemma of growing up, and the struggle at times, to make meaning of the apparent contradictions in life as he comes to terms with understanding the issues of ethnic and sexual identity. Through him we re-discover our own journey through the vicissitudes of life and empathize with the innocence that once surrounded us all before accepting the harsh realities and cruelties of life. Shyam Selvadurai weaves his story through a backdrop of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and a colorful range of characters - the gossipy aunts, the pecking order of cousins, the kindly grand-parents, the strict school principal, and the faceless mob - all of who evoke a range of emotions -smiles, annoyance, warmth and fear - as we nostalgically reminisce about these characters and situations from our own childhood. This is a well written and poignant book. I can't wait to get hold of the author's other book (Cinnamon Gardens).
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By A Customer on Dec 6 1999
Format: Paperback
Life as seen through a young boy's eyes, Funny Boy, is narrated with an honesty that brings laughs and alternatively, immense sadness. Arjie, the protagonist in the story, captures the dilemma of growing up, and the struggle at times, to make meaning of the apparent contradictions in life as he comes to terms with understanding the issues of ethnic and sexual identity. Through him we re-discover our own journey through the vicissitudes of life and empathize with the innocence that once surrounded us all before accepting the harsh realities and cruelties of life. Shyam Selvadurai weaves his story through a backdrop of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and a colorful range of characters - the gossipy aunts, the pecking order of cousins, the kindly grand-parents, the strict school principal, and the faceless mob - all of who evoke a range of emotions -smiles, annoyance, warmth and fear - as we nostalgically reminisce about these characters and situations from our own childhood. This is a well written and poignant book. I can't wait to get hold of the author's other book (Cinnamon Gardens).
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