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Funny Boy

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,055 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
In the world of his large family, affluent Tamils living in Colombo, Arjie is an oddity, a 'funny boy' who prefers dressing as a girl to playing cricket with his brother. In FUNNY BOY we follow the life of the family through Arjie's eyes, as he comes to terms both with his own homo-sexuality and with the racism of the society in which he lives. In the north of Sri Lanka th ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 19th 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1994)
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Funny Boy by Shyam SelvaduraiChinaman by Shehan KarunatilakaThe English Patient by Michael OndaatjeCinnamon Gardens by Shyam SelvaduraiAnil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
Sri Lankan English Fiction
1st out of 81 books — 79 voters
Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
113th out of 1,358 books — 1,710 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bookworm Sean
This is a book about a gay Indian boy. He falls in love and realises his sexuality.

I wonder how many people stopped reading my review after that first line. I can’t judge, this is a book I would never have picked up and read by my own choice. It’s was on one of my university modules, so there was no escaping it for me. Surprisingly, I actually quite enjoyed reading it as I have done with all postcolonial texts I’ve come across.

Gender is socially constructed and socially enforced; it’s also soc
Alex Sair
Jun 08, 2009 Alex Sair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what to say about this book. I haven't burst out crying without a warning at any book since The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. Maybe it's because of the current activism going on regarding the IDP, or maybe Selvadurai is just that good of a writer. I don't know. Genocide and communal violence makes me cry. That might be it. In any case, this was an amazing novel, despite it being the author's first.

First of all, the novel is about a young Tamil boy named Arjun. I sometimes ca
Jul 30, 2007 Sandhya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Personal, heart-felt and deeply emotional, Funny Boy is an outright masterpiece. The best thing about the novel is its simple, innocent and poignant of the most passionate and intense books I've ever read.
Dusty Myers
The only thing this collection of stories (billed as a novel, but no way) adds to the coming-out genre is its setting: the Sri Lankan Civil War. This is probably enough. Probably, we should have variants of the coming-out novel in every possible culture of the world. But for someone who's about waist-deep in coming out novels these days, Funny Boy has so little to offer.

And the writing, despite claims from the blurbs in the back, is not exquisite; is, in fact, never very creative or beautiful. "
Jul 14, 2010 ·Karen· rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
There's no accounting for taste. This book was pressed on me with the highest praise, and a lot of reviews here mention the exquisite writing. But what is exquisite about this? The narrator, Arjie has been informed that he is to go to the Academy where his older brother is already a student. His own displeasure at the idea turns to dread when his brother gives him a friendly warning not to provoke the head teacher by doing anything sinful like blinking or licking his lips in his presence. "The r ...more
Sep 04, 2007 ducky rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand the softer side of the problems in Sri Lanka
I love this book! It reminded me of little things from my childhood in Colombo…things I am slowing forgetting as I get older. Things like calling a wardrobe an almariah, like going to school in a uniform and coming home for lunch, like all the silly nicknames kids gifted - or maybe cursed - each other with, (ie: Diggy nose and Her Fatness) and even the make-believe games we used to play since we didn’t have all the entertaining toys that kids nowadays have. I also admire how the author is able t ...more
Rima Rashid
Apr 05, 2016 Rima Rashid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What comes across as a normal depiction of Tamil life injected with the humour of a boy who enjoys dressing up with his cousin sisters quickly turns into a haunting escalation of Sinhalese-Tamil violence wrapped around Arjie's growing awareness of his homosexuality. Regarding him and his country Sri Lanka, the very concept of 'normal' is questioned and how they have changed forever is explored.
A great read that starts funny and ends ominously. As Arjie grew, his innocence is overshadowed by his
Oct 18, 2015 Shami rated it really liked it
This book is six linked short stories set in Sri Lanka. It is mainly about the build up to the civil war and conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese people there in Sri Lanka. The stories being told from the point of view of a Tamil boy named Arjuna who is also queer. It is both coming of age and building of tension between Tamil and Sinhalese. The final chapter is tragic and terrifying.

There are two things that I did not feel comfortable about when I was reading it.

1. It maybe that the characters
Karthik Ramakrishnan
This book is a clear reflection of the confused thoughts that the protagonist Arjun hosts. It starts with the time when he visits his grandparents' home every Sunday, when he is comfortable with how his life is, happy with how things are panning out. That is when change creeps in uninvited and unannounced.

In almost every section of the book- there are six- the introduction of a character or a few changes his life. The backdrop for all these events is the perpetually present communal tension, whi
Oct 05, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: school
This book sets up an interesting series of observed relationships that culminate first in Arjie's sexual awakening and then his political (or apolitical) awakening around the time of the civil war in Sri Lanka. The stories of the forbidden love and the politically-troubled relationships he observes as a child bear closely on the choices he makes in his relationship with Shehan. He sees his family constantly pushing against the social expectations of a Tamil family and is brought into danger by t ...more
Jul 15, 2010 Calder rated it liked it
I actually glanced at the beginning of this book and thought, "Oh, god, another coming out story, nicely written, but nothing very profound or very different and put it aside. Then I saw the reviews of the book on this website and became more interested in the political aspects of the novel that I hadn't known about and I'm going to give it a second chance. Let's see what happens.

Well, I should have trusted my first impression. Although the political background of the novel added some dimension,
Ariel Uppstrom
Sep 15, 2010 Ariel Uppstrom rated it liked it
This was an interesting book. It was really cool to learn about Sri Lanka and the culture and lifestyles of the people. I also am always drawn to stories of gay young people in foreign countries who experience a different understanding of their sexuality.

I didn't like how most of the story was about other people, not the main character and his situations. Only 2 parts were really focused on his life and problems while the rest was about other people in his family or friends. It just didn't seem
Jan 06, 2011 Travis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
When adults say Arjie is "funny", he knows they don't mean it in any way he's familiar with the word. It's not until he's fourteen and falling in love with his best friend that he realizes what they meant and why he's always felt different. Set in Sri Lanka during the '70s and '80s, the book also deals with the racial tensions at the time, as Arjie becomes more and more aware of the growing conflict the older he gets.[return][return]This is not a young adult book, but rather a book about childre ...more
Mar 09, 2011 Halik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Touching stuff. I was quite young when i read this and it sort of provided me with my first real insight into the ethnic conflict leading up to the years of 1983. Also provoked a fair bit of anger against the government as well. Great activism and an even better novel. The story is woven around a young boy just entering puberty who finds that he has homosexual tendencies. He is a Tamil from a well to do Colombo family, but the exacerbating Sinhalese - Tamil racial violence soon drives his idylli ...more
Jun 05, 2007 Ben rated it did not like it
Absolutelty worthless. It's the gay, Indian, boring Portrait of the Artist. But if Joyce was gay, Indian, and boring, he wouldn't have wasted his time telling this story. He would have been too busy sleeping with Proust.
Brandon Shire
Oct 20, 2015 Brandon Shire rated it it was amazing
Age Group:

Canadian Literature, Coming-of-Age, Realistic Fiction, History, Asian

Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (1994), Lambda Literary Foundation Award, in Canada First Novel Award (1994)

Arjie Chelvaratnam is a young Tamil boy growing up during a time of political unrest in Sri Lanka. Arjie's always been a little different from the other boys in his family. He loves playing a game called bride-bride with his girl cousins and shys away from playing cricke
Megan Baxter
Jun 10, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
I believe I read Selvadurai's second book first, and am now reading his first book second. Not that they need to be read in any order, but I'm wondering about his progression as an author. Also, is there a third? Because I liked Funny Boy more than Cinnamon Gardens. And looking it up, looks like yes, there are more of his books to explore.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the m
May 30, 2014 Karan rated it it was amazing
Heart wrenching
Mar 14, 2016 Maybellestyle rated it really liked it
*Spoiler alert*

Read this book for graduate school, and absolutely loved it.

Selvadurai has a way of advancing the plot and character development with a few bare strokes of language. He paints a beautiful, intricate web between desire and politics, family and self, in six condensed pieces. Arjun's homosexuality seems to play only a small role in this novel, but it is illuminated against the difficulties that his other family members face. There's Radkha Aunty falling for a Sinhalese she can't marr
April Mcdonald
Feb 23, 2015 April Mcdonald rated it liked it
When I read the description of the book I thought Funny Boy was going to be about the protagonist and his life as a gay male in Sri Lanka, however once I actually began to read the book I saw that Arjie's sexuality was not a major theme in the book, and funny boy wasn't only in reference to him being gay, but to him being different in more than just his sexuality. Selvadurai wrote this book in first person, and because Arjie is so young it lends some naivety to the novel. It seemed to me that A ...more
Brittney Newbury
Jun 15, 2014 Brittney Newbury rated it it was amazing
I have recently read this book for my post-colonial literature class and really enjoyed it! It is a coming of age story of a boy that is torn between pleasing his parents and himself. When the young boy realizes that he is gay, the struggle between family and his lover becomes quite difficult. In the midst of all this, the Sinhalese and the Tamil people are fighting and as tensions grow in the world they also grow in the life of young Arjie. Definitely a good book to pick up soon!

I would love t
May 12, 2016 Smita rated it really liked it
Beautiful, beautiful book. Selvadurai is a fantastic writer. *_*
Feb 22, 2015 Fahmi98 rated it it was amazing
When I first saw the title “Funny Boy” I thought that was the title because funny boy was another term for gay. But one of my classmates pointed out something that I find to makes the most sense. It was titled funny boy because Arjie went against everything that was expected of him, he even defined the word funny in that way, something that is strange. This book is something that doesn’t focus completely on one expect of Arjie’s life, but on different points in his life that shapes him up to be ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Amarinder rated it liked it
First things first, I love the cover of the copy that I possess.

Moving on to the review:
The fact that 'Funny Boy' is Shyam Selvadurai's first novel, I think that he has done justice to it and has fared well.

What I particularly like about the novel is that Shyam very vividly and aptly describes the Sinhala-Tamil situation in Sri Lanka, and his ways with his characters is commendable.

Moving to a little bitter note, I think the novel lacks the punch. It does not hit you hard about the very portraya
Dec 06, 2015 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(view spoiler) ...more
Anita George
Nov 07, 2015 Anita George rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful coming of age story about a Tamil boy living in Sri Lanka who is "funny" (i.e. homosexual). The major theme is that of difference--the Tamil family who doesn't quite fit in, especially during a time of political tension and social unrest between Sri Lankans and Tamils, and the boy who doesn't fit in with his family's expectations or into the school to which he is sent in hopes it will "make a man of him." Parts of this are funny, parts are tragic, parts are moving and tender. ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Sachindri rated it it was amazing
slow and fast moving... boring and stipulating... one of the few books which can appeal that freaky butterfly feeling hovering underneath..!!! enjoyed it all throughout except for those boring and traditional communal riots parts..!! sooo pictorial n life like. A grande piece written n hte perspective of a DIFFERENT one...!!! ;)
Marne Ventura
Jun 09, 2011 Marne Ventura rated it really liked it
I loved the main character's voice in this coming-of-age novel, and found the backdrop of civil unrest in Sri Lanka both interesting and disturbing. The straight-forward, sincere point of view was refreshing. I thought the author did a great job of developing characters and plot through the eyes of the young Arjie.
Jan 24, 2014 Keshia rated it really liked it
"Funny boy" tells the story of Arjie, a young boy growing up in Sri Lanka and how to come to discover his own sexuality Through it and the political events happening around him he bulds an understanding of the world that is both poignant and brutally truthful. We're given vignettes of several significant stories in Arjie's life, from ages even to fourteen. Through these events Shyam Selvadurai was able to present a great tale of gender norms, sexuality, and political racism. This novel is filled ...more
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Shyam Selvadurai is a Sri Lankan-Canadian novelist who wrote Funny Boy (1994), which won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Cinnamon Gardens (1998). He currently lives in Toronto with his partner Andrew Champion.

Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father--members of conflicting ethnic groups whose troubles form a major theme in his work. Ethnic riots
More about Shyam Selvadurai...

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