Sunday, January 2, 2011

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an awarding author Sri Lankan Canadian novelist Shyam Selvadurai .

Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka on February 12,1965 to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father--members of conflicting ethnic groups whose troubles form a major theme in his work. At the age of 19 ethnic riots in Sri Lanka drove his family to emigrate to Canada. He studied creative and professional writing as part of a Bachelor of Fine Arts program at York University.

After graduation he wrote for magazines and television before scoring success with his first novel, Funny Boy, published in 1994, which won the W. H. Smith/Books in Canada first novel award and the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men's Fiction.

Funny Boy traces the story of Arjie as he grows from ridiculed "funny boy" more content to dress up as "bride-bride" with his female cousins than play cricket with the boys, to an intelligent, reflective teenager dangerously awakened by his first love, rebellious schoolmate Shehan. Told in six independent yet interwoven stories, the novel concludes with Arjie achieving maturity and discovers heartbreaking truths.


Selvadurai followed up Funny Boy with Cinnamon Gardens in 1999, and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea in 2005. His style, wit, and keen understanding of the characters, the culture and the experience of life in Sri Lanka as well as being gay has insured him a place as a significant figure in post-colonial and gay writing.

Sri Lankan critic Prakrti noted that Selvadurai's particular gift is to understand how such factors as ethnic tensions and the legacy of British colonial rule are interweavon with dominant ideologies of sexuality and gender.

While doesn't overtly address issues of lesbianism, Cinnamon Gardens, used a parallel narratives to link the oppression of women with that of gay men. Set in the 1920s in the well-heeled suburbs of (what was then) Ceylon, the novel exposes the stifling conformity that is the price of acceptance in the wealthy precincts of Cinnamon Gardens.

His third novel, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is targeted to teens/young adults. Set in 1980 Sri Lanka, it's the story of a fourteen-year-old Sri Lankan boy falling in love with his visiting Canadian cousin. His crushed is played out against a school production of Othello, and the play's powerful theme of jealousy provides the backdrop to his angst. Selvadurai explored the pain and exhilaration of first love with unusual clarity and humor.

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea was a finalist for Canada's most prestigious literary award, the Governor General's Awards, in the category of children's literature. It was honored with a Lambda Literary Award in the Children's and Youth Literature category.

Selvadurai has also edited a collection of short stories entitlted Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers , which includes works by Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, and Hanif Kureishi, among others. He is represented in the book by "Pigs Can't Fly," the first of the six "stories" that comprise his book Funny Boy.

He was a contributor to TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 1

Selvadurai's writing are filled with the meticulous research and a haunting detail of Sri Lanka, which remains vital in his imagination despite his having lived in Canada for so long. With a deep connection with his country of birth and its troubled history, he is also aware of how impossible it would be for him to live there. Sri Lanka's ethnic clashes may have led to Selvadurai's family's emigration, the country's homophobic attitudes, in part its anti-homosexual laws, have intensified his embrace of his new home, Canada.

In an essay, "Coming Out", he wrote for Time Magazine Asia's special issue on the Asian diaspora in 2003, he wrote a powerful account of the discomfort he and his partner, Andrew Chapman, experienced during a period spent in Sri Lanka in 1997. In the essay he writes that "in this country [Sri Lanka] that I still considered my home, I could never be at home" and while he revels in the comfort of feeling at ease in the home he shares with his partner in Toronto.

Selvadurai takes seriously the effect his books may have on other young gay Sri Lankans and his position as a role model for other gay Asians in North America. In explaining his decision to be openly gay, he remarked, "I remembered how it was for me feeling there was no one out there who was a role model of any sort. When I decided to be out in public, I was really thinking of that version of me in Sri Lanka who would read my book and feel relieved to not be alone. If I decided not to be out, I would be sending a message to that young person that I was still afraid and ashamed."

He currently lives in Toronto with his partner Andrew Champion

26 comments:

austin's twitter said...

All I wanted for Christmas was a Dr. House action figure. Curses, foiled again. about 16 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Jersey Tom said...

Seems like the JIS's are in a tizzy. The holidays are now over. No sign of Jake and Talyor. No sign of Austin and Sophia. Reese gets engaged which means that she very likely was dating this guy when the Jake was begging Reese to marry him rumors were out there. LOL on that rumor.

Now I am sure we will see the Soapys together in some pics real soon but we will have no clue when they were taken. If they were together they would have been tweeting pics of themselves all over the place during the holidays.
Steam on that one Jack and the ladies of the babbling kingdom:-)

ihj said...

Jake on a train NYC

destiny said...

Selvadurai's books sound really interesting. I will have to check them out when I catch up on all my reading.

Agree Tom, the trolls and JIS crowd are not happy.

cray cray said...

As opposed to the Jausti crowd who seem to be in a perpetual funk about the boys. How quaint. Everyone is miserable together.

Special K said...

Forgot to put the link to the Selvadurai's essay in Time. Here it is:

Coming Out

I had read this as I was researching him, and found it very compelling.

lol! said...

Poor jaustaloons, no sign of jake and austin together for the holidays, again.

AUS10 said...

Great Book. EATING THE DINOSAUR. Chuck Klosterman.
21 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Another great book. THE FIELD. By Lynne McTaggart.
19 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

the real m said...

Very interesting spotlight. One of my favorite slash stories, which is still a work in progress is A Way with Words, which features a Sri Lankan as a key character so these books are of particular interest to me. I'll try to read some of his work.

the real m said...

No sign of Jake and Austin? You do realize they are both in the closet these days. We don't expect to see them while they are in hiding.

destiny said...

Beautiful essay Special, thanks for posting the link.

ROMA said...

I had a fun star sighting this afternoon in the Far West Village. Saw Maggie, Ramona and Peter playing with Ramona a block from my home. The three of them were having a ball. Peter has a full beard now, I assume in anticipation of him and Maggie starring in another Chekov play in NYC soon. They really looked quite happy as a family, with Peter swinging Ramona around and doing very funny voices and accents to entertain his daughter.

destiny said...

That's cool; I wonder why they were playing in the West Village instead of Brooklyn. Did you see anyone else with them?

ROMA said...

I only saw the three of them together today. There are many rehearsal spaces in the area too. Maybe they were seeing friends or family or just revisiting the old neighborhood. They lived on Greenwich Street for over 5 years and Maggie's Aunt owned the apartment in which she resided for those years. They really looked the picture of happy, it was quite sweet! Peter looked every bit the Chekov actor with his bushy beard.

Speaking of bushy beards what is up with Swyll?

Special K said...

Thanks ROMA for the sighting. So great to hear them happy and having fun together as a family.

prairiegirl said...

Thanks for the sighting, Roma. Happy New Year to you!! Did you go to the Spotted Pig for deviled eggs? Oh, for a few of those deviled eggs again...

What is with all the shrubbery? Don't guys know that adds about 10 years to them, especially when it has gray in it.

Interesting spotlight today, Special. Great outlook this guy has - and wow, he is very nice looking!!

Oh oh, looks like I need to change my avatar!

prairiegirl said...

Ah, it's time for the ol' I Hate Snow avatar!

Completed a weekend dogsitting gig with Molly, Lucy & little Jingles. Jingles only pooped in the house once on me this time - he was very good this time!

I had to turn down a good gig for early February because while I should be out of this boot by then, I still will not be in any position to be walking 2 labs, an Australian shepherd and a Shepherd mix. 4 big, 3 of them very powerful when they pull on their leashes. Plus, they all climb into his big ol' bed and Puddy is used to climbing on top of me so I told him I just couldn't risk all of that while getting over my broken leg.

**sigh**. I hated saying no to that one - would've been good $$.

Leg is doing much better! I actually only took my pain med once this morning and haven't needed it the rest of the day. Everyday there's something I can do that doesn't cause pain that used to. Can't wait til I can exercise walk again - I miss it so much.

You know what, though, people are so nice. So many people open doors, wait to hold open doors for me, and ask how I did it. This guy at Whole Foods on Christmas Eve told me he had to wear a boot once for 3 months and we compared stories, lol. Never saw the guy in my life before. They wait for me to cross the street and are just really nice. It's an eye opener to human kindness. The guys in the warehouse and the office are all real nice and spoiling me. It's a real humbling experience to not be able to do some things that you're used to doing.

It's a learning experience, that's for sure. Cannot wait to stop lugging this thing around.

prairiegirl said...

Well, I will say this in several store stops post-Christmas. Plenty of PoP 2011 calendars around if you want one! LOL. Awwww, that's sad.

But what yuck-o pictures they chose for that thing. I'm not surprised at all that there are bunches of them still left. There's nothing Christmas-y about the December page and now had they chosen one of the months to be Jake in that open white shirt, that might've sold a couple, lol, but not with the ones they selected. Again, just a bad idea.

And I was at the Dollar General store yesterday and while standing at the checkout line, there's this issue of some little teen mag called J-14. I've never heard of this one but anyway, there's all these little teen idols on it, like Berber carpet and I don't know who else. And of course there was ol' Tay and the title caught my eye, something about has she found the one or something?

And so here I go picking up this J-14 magazine (LOLLLLL!!! I know, I know, hey I know no shame sometimes) at Dollar General, open it up to the 2 page article and there's ol' Jakey, who the article says is Tay's most unlikeliest beau yet and is he the one - we'll all just have to wait and see.


LOLLLL!!

prairiegirl said...

Jake in J-14!!! Whaaaaaa...is this the demographic Jake and his brilliant handlers intended him to be aimed at?

Jake is now in the teen rags all because he's "dating" Tay. So this puts him in with the crowd of Berber Carpet, Jonas Brothers, and Selena Gomez who are 16 and what's Selena, 18? David Archuleta is another teen star.

Did they really realize what hooking him up with this girl was going to do? He should have been in J-14 when he was doing October Sky and Donnie Darko! Not now.


Do they realize what this makes him look like? He's 30 years old, dating someone who is bff with an 18 year old who is strolling sidewalks with a 16 year old.


What in the hell were they and are they thinking?


And while on the subject, I hope some of the authors of stories leaking out involving Berber start to watch themselves. That kid is only 16 and that age will get you in some reeeeeal trouble if you don't watch it.

ROMA said...

Hi PG! I hope you are healing nicely.

Destiny and I will toast OMG with deviled eggs at The Spotted Pig soon!

Happy new year everyone!

Great "spotlight" again today Special.

theatre swine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the real m said...

Roma, how exciting. I am so glad you got to see them having a nice family moment.

Today's SF chronicle had an article about Taylor and Kanye - who will last. I would normally skip right over such an article but I decided to read it. Apparently Swift did not perform very well at the last Grammys where she had to use her true singing voice with no help from Auto tune and pitch correction. The writer did not think much of her despite her album and concert sales. It remains to be seen how she will hold up over time as her audience matures.

ROMA, I almost made the spotted pig eggs again this weekend but we had eggs in so many other dishes, I decided we'd had enough. I find myself craving a repeat, so maybe next weekend. Not just the taste, but the memories tied with them make them taste so good.

Methodical Muser said...

Great spotlight, Special. I’ve read a couple of Shyam Selvadurai’s works, but I still think, Funny Boy is my favorite. He is not just a terrific writer, he is an excellent storyteller. The "Coming of Age" genre can be trite and riddled with clich├ęs, but this particular title has a solidness and poignancy that touches a wide spectrum of inner truths and outer realities about self discovery, the push and pull of family loyalties, and the path toward somehow learning to make peace with the cruel realities of seemingly unchangeable forces.

Nice to see that Austin is enjoying literary pursuits just around the time Jake is photographed doing the same. I've read both works he is recommending and I can definitely see how both he and Jake would be attracted to Klosterman and the alternative science focus of The Field with it's discussions about a unifying energy structure. Introspection and contemplation are highly undervalued in today's society.

All I wanted for Christmas was a Dr. House action figure. Curses, foiled again.

Like I said. Introspection and contemplation are highly overrated. Ha! Austin shouldn't feel too bad because I don't think that this nerdy toy is an eco-friendly one. LOL!

Music Lover said...

Lovely Spotlight Special - I'd be interested in reading these books.

destiny said...

That's too bad about the gig PG, but boy, that would be a tough crew to handle. My sister has an Aussie and a smaller dog that is part cattle dog, and they are a handful to walk and watch over.

Tried the deviled egg recipe over the holidays, I thought it was pretty close to the Spotted Pig, but not quite the real deal. A tad too tart? Something missing? I did find that sprinkling a little olive oil over them helped.

ROMA said...

One of my highlight memories of 2010 is the visit to NYC by The Real M and Jersey Tom and PG. Destiny and I will be sure to raise a deviled egg to you all soon! And course we will raise an egg as well to Special K~ who made our wonderful meeting in late Fall possible! I hope 2011 is everyone's best year yet.