Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Funny Boy” as Want to Read:
Funny Boy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Funny Boy

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  5,758 ratings  ·  534 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 homosexuality and with the racism of the society in which he lives. In the north of Sri Lanka the
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 1997 by Harvest (first published 1994)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Funny Boy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Yvonne Blackwood I don't regard the narration as overly unrealistic; as one other reader states, the mother used him for cover. What I found a tad out of place was tha…moreI don't regard the narration as overly unrealistic; as one other reader states, the mother used him for cover. What I found a tad out of place was that he was always able to eavesdrop without being caught whenever something juicy was occurring!(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,758 ratings  ·  534 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Funny Boy
Sean Barrs
This is a book about a gay Sri Lankan 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
Jim Fonseca
As you might guess from the title, this is a story of a young boy discovering his homosexuality. The setting is Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) during the 1980’s or so, so the second major theme is politics: the horrible violence between two ethnic groups: the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The young boy’s family is Tamil and they are in the minority. We don’t get any real overview of the nation’s geography and history in the book (it’s semi-autobiographical fiction), but as a former geography professor ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Funny Boy is a moving account of a young boy coming to terms with his being 'funny'– slowly recognizing that he is different- that he loves men, that he is gay. Even though the story is set in Sri Lanka, the funny boy's experiences resonate with any young gay boy who grew up elsewhere in the Indian Subcontinent. Of course, there are moments in this boy's story that most gay men will recognize as there own, no matter where they come from.

I give this book such a high rating because it is a well-wr
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
Maybe a 3.5/5? I can't decide ...more
Megan Baxter
Aug 27, 2013 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
Richard Derus
Dec 10, 2020 marked it as to-read
The Guardian gives the film 3* of five.

Whenever that happens, and for the reason it happens, it makes one a bit sad. Read Sean Barrs's review of the book to see the reasons for that sadness.
Jul 30, 2007 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. ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad that I got a chance to read this book. This novel was chosen by my teacher for us to read for an assignment. I should be working on the assignment right now, but it's been awhile since I wrote a book review. I loved this book so much and I am relieved to have read another book. I'm in a huge reading slump and this book might've gotten me out of it. I learned so many things and it was easy to relate to.

"Yet those Sundays, when I was seven, marked the beginning of my exile from t
Jul 11, 2010 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 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
Sonali Dabade
Jun 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-reads
4.5 stars!

What a beautiful, heartbreaking, enlightening, educational book this is!

I need some time to wrap my head around this book. Review will come soon (hopefully).
Ravi Gangwani
It was the story of small boy in Sri Lanka, who lives in family of mother, father, siblings and surrounded by his extended family and how his life changes as per political scenario of the country. How they forced to leave the country and go to Canada. Here is the pattern in which this book goes :

First 1/6th of book was - childhood time games of 7 year kid.
Second 1/6th of the book was - Life of an Tamil aunt who falls in love with a Sinhalese man.
Third 1/6th of the book - Death of the mother's fo
May 31, 2017 added it
"The difference within me that I sometimes felt I had, that had brought me so much confusion, whatever this difference, it was shared by Shehan. I felt amazed that a normal thing - like my friendship with Shehan - could have such powerful and hidden possibilities."

"Right and wrong, fair and unfair had nothing to do with how things really were. I thought of Shehan and myself. What had happened between us in the garage was not wrong. For how could loving Shehan be bad? [...] It had to do with who
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
“Yet those Sundays, when I was seven, marked the beginning of my exile from the world I loved. Like a ship that leaves a port for the vast expanse of sea, those much looked forward to days took me away from the safe harbour of childhood towards the precarious waters of adult life.”

RATING: 4.5/5

Structured as six interconnected stories, is a heartfelt coming-of-age story which revolves around the life of Arjie. He is the titular funny boy, a label given to him because he doesn't conform to the gen
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Queer adolescence meets the beginnings of a civil war in this exquisite book, interweaving the story of Sri Lanka's civil war with the self-realization of a teenager beginning to grow comfortable with his sexuality. These two unlikeliest of themes fuse together in such a brilliant fashion that the resultant novel is an absolute stunner! Queer novels from the Indian subcontinent are so rare, and one so effortlessly accomplished that also deals with another issue close to my heart - the Sri Lan
Renita D'Silva
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and heartbreaking. Loved this book.
Sep 25, 2011 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
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. "
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtqa, asian-lit
A very interesting read.
Solomon Manoj
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-book-clib
Wonderful first novel from 1994 and recent Netflix movie. Funny Boy is the story of young boy Arjie and his coming out against the background of the Tamil/Sinhalese civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and eventual escape as a refugee to Canada. Arjie’s struggle with accepting his sexual and gender identity is really only the subject of two of the six chapters - that are more like interlocking novellas with most of the same characters. Beautifully written and powerful - this is also an Amnesty In ...more
Tavleen Kaur (Travelling Through Words)
"Funny Boy" by Shyam Selvadurai is set during the Sri Lankan riots. In the middle of this setting, the protagonist Arjie grows up and discovers his sexuality. This book flew by and I wish it was longer. While I liked learning more about the situation in Sri Lanka, I would have loved to read more of Arjie's story. Still, I absolutely loved reading this. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a coming-of-age story.

Check out my book reviews, recommendations, and other content on Travelling Thro
Feb 08, 2016 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
Rajith Vidanaarachchi
It's a book every Sri Lankan should read. Sinhalese - Tamil, Gay - Straight - no matter what your identities are, this tells an intersectional story about how intolerance makes the world an uglier place, while showing how a little bit of love can go a long way.
(view spoiler)
Kriti Samidi
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Funny Boy - a friend was reading it for her Gender Studies class - and I immediately got hooked onto it. It's the story of a young boy who is slowly coming to terms with how different he is from the other boys of his age. The story is told through his eyes and we are sympathetic to the things he face and make space for his thoughts throughout the book. While this has been quite a good story about the 'funny boy', it also becomes yet another tale of displacement in the face of riots and violence ...more
Moshe Mikanovsky
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was registered to take a Creative Writing class at the University of Toronto with Shyam Selvadurai as the instructor, so I found it interesting to read his book before the class started. Unfortunately, that class was canceled (now I am taking it with another teacher), but I still enjoyed reading the book. I debated a bit between 3 to 4 stars. Somewhere in the middle of the book, the writing becomes a bit tedious, with the narrator (a 12 y/o at that point of the book) happen to always be taken ...more
May 23, 2010 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 09, 2010 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, fiction
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
Frankie Frenchie
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read Shyam Selvadurai’s debut novel was for a class I took back in 2018. At the time, I remember enjoying my reading of “Funny Boy” but I felt I couldn’t truly appreciate it because I had to read it in a hurry. 3 years later, I curiously decided to re-read the book to see how it aged in my own experience of it. Frankly, I am very glad I attempted the book again because just like an archaeological dig- I found myself uncovering treasure troves that I had missed in my first readin ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Bhimayana
  • In Custody
  • Basti
  • Reef
  • Island of a Thousand Mirrors
  • What We All Long For
  • Desert of the Heart
  • Mohanaswamy
  • Kari
  • A Married Woman
  • The Shadow Lines
  • In Search of Heer
  • Upon a Sleepless Isle
  • To Stir the Heart: Four African Stories
  • How to Pronounce Knife
  • The Story of a Brief Marriage
  • Andha Yug
  • Jonny Appleseed
See similar books…
LGBT > Gay
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
17 likes · 5 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Life is full of stupid things and sometimes we just have to do them.” 0 likes
“Ammachi. Like the earth-goddess in the folktales, she was not to be disturbed from her tranquillity. To do so would have been the cause of a catastrophic earthquake. In order to minimize interference by either Ammachi or Janaki, we had developed and refined a system of handling conflict and settling disputes ourselves. Two things formed the framework of this system: territoriality and leadership.” 0 likes
More quotes…