Shyam Selvadurai’s debut novel, Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories, was shortlisted for the first-ever Giller Prize. Most recently, he has edited Many Roads Through Paradise: An Anthology of Sri Lankan Literature. In September 2017 he will be Queen’s University’s Writer in Residence.
Shyam was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and moved to Canada in 1983. His experience as an immigrant informs much of his writing. “The trauma of migration” survives, he says. “I think the pain of losing your home is something that’s always with us. There’s always a homesickness, and that has to be negotiated in your life in the new country.
“Canada was very difficult to write about, especially the Canada that I wanted to write about, which was the Canada which is called the inner-ring suburbs of, say, Toronto. Where it’s an amorphous place, you arrive and there’s no centre, there’s no main street, no downtown, no nothing. It’s just lost in a way. It’s a kind of wasteland. I just did not know how to get my language to that place, because my language is much better suited to the sensuality of Sri Lanka.”
He has also explored the realities of gay life in Canada and in Sri Lanka. “In the early days of gay liberation, the emphasis was on just creating visibility and saying, ‘we exist and we are human just like you.’… But in the last few years there has been a relaxing of this need for a political edge to fiction as queerness has become so mainstream in the west… However, since I write about Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is still illegal, prejudice and homophobia is still a theme in my work.”
Appearing in: 45. Writing the LGBTQ Voice