Review: Funny Boy – Shyam Selvadurai

Funny Boy
Book cover: Arjie looks into the distance, his chin is on his folded arms

I’ve been meaning to read Funny Boy for a long time: a coming-of-age story of a Tamil Sri Lankan boy. A story about a boy that comes to terms with homosexuality, while also becoming aware of racial tensions in his home country.

I decided to read this book because I know very little about the history of Sri Lanka, even though I’m Sinhalese Malaysian. I wasn’t alive during the Sri Lankan Civil War nor have I lived in Sri Lanka.

It’s #ownvoices.

The Good

It’s realistic. At times, you do forget that this is a work of fiction because it’s very honest and direct. It was a very difficult book for me to read, as it didn’t gloss over any of the events that occured in Sri Lanka during the Sri Lankan Civil War. This isn’t just a coming-out story. It is a story about how a boy becomes aware that people are treated differently, depending on what ethnicity they have. It becomes part of his daily life. I wanted to root for the different characters and I was hoping that their dreams come true (especially Radha and Anil), but like in real life, our hopes and wishes don’t always come true.

I enjoyed the format of the book: 6 short stories that when combined explain how Arjie became the person he was in the end.

The Bad

It was very difficult for me to read one of the sex scenes, as Arjie wants the other boy to stop and he doesn’t. It isn’t stated anywhere that this was wrong of the boy.

All in all

I enjoyed most of the book and it would have been a five-star read for me, if it hadn’t been for that one sex scene. I wouldn’t have had an issue with the scene being in the book, if the situation had been analysed properly and if it had been explained that this was not the right thing to do.

However, I enjoyed the rest of the book. I thought it was a well-written portrayal of the ethnic tensions. It’s necessary to realise that we cannot generalise one side as evil and the other as angelic.

I will be reading another book by Shyam Selvadurai soon, as I would like to find a book, which I can recommend that is set in Sri Lanka and has a homosexual protagonist. If you have any suggestions, leave me a comment down below.

Trigger warnings: homoantagonism, forced sex, graphic descriptions of killings and attacks.

3 stars

What’s your opinion on Funny Boy? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it?


4 thoughts on “Review: Funny Boy – Shyam Selvadurai

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