Author in the Spotlight: Shyam Selvadurai

Shyam Selvadurai



Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1965. He came to Canada with his family at the age of nineteen. He has studied creative writing and theatre and has a BFA from York University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.. 

Funny Boy, his first novel, was published to acclaim in 1994 and won the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award and in the US the Lambda Literary Award. It was also named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and was translated into 8 languages. 

His second novelCinnamon Gardens, was published in Canada, the UK, the US and translated into 9 languages. It was shortlisted for Canada’s Trillium Award, as well as the Aloa Literary Award in Denmark and the Premio Internazionale Riccardo Bacchelli in Italy. 

Shyam is the editor of an anthology, Story-Wallah: A Celebration of South Asian Fiction, published in Canada and the US. His novel for young adults, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and is the winner of the Lambda Literary Award in the US, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award and Silver Winner in the Young Adult Category of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. 

His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The New York TimesTime Magazine,Toronto LifeWalrus MagazineEnroute MagazineThe Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He served as Festival Curator for the Galle Literary Festival for 2 years. His fourth novel, The Hungry Ghostswas published April 2, 2013 in Canada, India and Sri Lanka. It was shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award for Fiction and longlisted for the DSC South Asia Literature Prize. His latest work is a comprehensive anthology of Sri Lankan literature, Many Roads Through Paradise. 


What motivated you to write a book(s) that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ families/issues? 

I am gay and come from a family so I write about it. The family anyway tends to be central to the novel.  

What do you personally feel makes a family? 

A group of people related by blood or not who help each other achieve their full potential and fullest happiness.  

What does “equality” look like to you? 

Everyone having the same rights, what else could it be?   

Whose books do you admire and why? 

I admire a lot of books, too many to mention. As for why, because I love the novel, I love reading it. No other art form gives me as much pleasure. 

What’s coming up next for you? 

I don’t talk about what I am working on next.