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Swimming in the Monsoon Sea By Shyam Selvadurai

swimming-in-the-monsoon-sea-by-shyam-selvadurai-200Shyam Selvadurai, author of Funny Boy, Cinnamon Gardens, and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea will be reading at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, February 21. Shyam’s most recent novel, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, is a powerful young adult novel. Here, Shyam explores tumultuous first love with clarity, humour, and compassion.

The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of the 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. Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising; then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith’s ordered life is storm-tossed.

He finds himself falling into a dangerous love. Othello, with its powerful theme of disastrous jealousy, is the backdrop to the drama in which Amrith finds himself entangled.

One of the things I love most about “Canadian” literature is that it is made up of so many voices–voices from “foreign” lands, as we are indeed a multi-cultural country. We have the immense good fortune to live in a country with the sort of freedom that attracts immigrants escaping political, religious and racial intolerance and violence–and we are made much richer by it.

In Funny Boy, Shyam’s first novel, he subtly juxtaposes a boy’s passage to adolescence and maturity with the upheavals of growing ethnic and civil unrest. The result is a brilliant and unforgettable novel about discovery and loss and the true feelings of the human heart.

It is a treasure of a book to read, set in the rich, exotic world of Sri Lanka amid a wonderful family of supporting characters–it is a jewel.

Cinnamon Gardens, Shyam’s eagerly awaited second novel, was published in 1998. Lush and beautiful, this story of intertwined lives vividly evokes the gracious world of 1920s Ceylon among the upper classes of Colombo’s wealthy suburb, Cinnamon Gardens, during a period when the power of colonial rule is shifting. Cinnamon Gardens is a rich and unforgettable tapestry of lives. Selvadurai’s sensual descriptions and keen insights take us behind the fragrant gardens and the polished surfaces of the elite to reveal a world of splintered families, conflicted passions, and lives destroyed by class hatred.

Shyam Selvadurai was born in 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His mixed Tamil/Sinhalese family emigrated to Canada in 1983. He has studied creative writing and journalism, and has a bachelor of fine arts degree from York University.

Shyam Selvadurai will read from his books Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Charles W. Stockey Centre.

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