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 in 1983 drove the family to emigrate to Canada when Selvadurai was nineteen. He studied creative and professional writing as part of a Bachelor of Fine Arts program at York University.
Selvadurai recounted an account of the discomfort he and his partner experienced during a period spent in Sri Lanka in 1997 in his essay "Coming Out" in Time Asia's special issue on the Asian diaspora in 2003.
In 2004, Selvadurai edited a collection of short stories: Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers, which includes works by Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, and Hanif Kureishi, among others. He published a young adult novel, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, in 2005. Swimming won the Lambda Literary Award in the Children's and Youth Literature category in 2006. He was a contributor to TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 1.
In 2013, he released a fourth novel, The Hungry Ghosts.
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: Tundra Books (August 14, 2007)
Amazon: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
Amazon Kindle: Swimming in the Monsoon Sea
Nominated for the Governor General's Literary Awards 2005, (Children's Literature, Text) The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons. Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the cheerful, well-to-do household in which he is being raised by his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky. He tries not to think of his life “before,” when his doting mother was still alive. Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising: he wants to appear in his school’s production of Othello and he is learning to type at Uncle Lucky’s tropical fish business. Then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith’s ordered life is storm-tossed. He finds himself falling in love with the Canadian boy. Othello, with its powerful theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama in which Amrith finds himself immersed. Shyam Selvadurai’s brilliant novels, Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens, have garnered him international acclaim. In this, his first young adult novel, he explores first love with clarity, humor, and compassion.
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