Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories by Shyam Selvadurai is just that!
It is a collection of short stories that are interlinked with each other and that is what ironically makes it a novel. The six short stories seem episodic but that is deceptive and it is actually quite a fun exercise to connect the dots in each vignette as if you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
What is the book about?
This debut novel cum short stories, by Shyam Selvadurai, for the most part, traces the growth of Arjie, in a remarkable coming of age story where right in the first story, Pigs Can’t Fly, we are shown how his favourite game, as a child growing up in Colombo, Sri Lanka, was “bride bride” in which Arjie, loved to dress up as the bride and once when his family found out, he was mocked and jeered for being “pansy.” His manliness is unfortunately questioned which also forces him to explore and interrogate his own sexuality as well.
We see this interrogation and rebellion, by the time he reaches his teens, in his first sexual act with his friend from class, Shehan.
Will this bring rapture or more tumult in an already conflicted growing teenage boy?
One last reason to pick it up?
Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories is written against the backdrop of the communal violence between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people in Sri Lanka that tore the country apart
Like the blurb says, the novel is a “mingling of the personal and the political.”
And I have always believed that the role and purpose of literature is to highlight the personal stories of people amidst the conflict they are unfortunately ensnared in as a foil to the news stories that make everything into a mere and mundane statistic.
And this particular conflict creeps into the lives of Arije, and his family members (who are Tamilian) slowly and steadily so much so that it eventually pushes his family to move to Canada and also pushes him away from Shehan, who is a Sinhalese. Arije grapples with not only his homosexuality but also the violence in his own nation. It is a double blow, a kind of intersectional conflict that Arije faces. This makes Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories a perfect unconventional bildungsroman.
Need another last reason?
Well, I bow to your wishes!
Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories forces one to take a hard look at our gendered society and its complete shunning and distaste of queerness. The novel portrays the faults in how we bring up our children to follow strict gender norms that have been deeply embedded in our souls and minds.
So on that note, I would recommend this novel since it is a perfect one to teach anyone about the harm done by gender roles and its effect on family structures.
I shall end here, lest this blog post become a Spark Notesesque post about summary and themes of the novel! 😛