Shyam Selvadurai came to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1984 at the age of 19. Many people pronounce his name as Shayam, but he laughs when asked if he was ever tempted to simplify things, to change his name to Sam.
“Never crossed my mind! My siblings and cousins would have laughed at me had I done so. We were raised to be proud of who we are. I could have taken on a more Canadian accent, but I retained mine. I happen to like it. There’s a musicality to different accents. I am not Sam, I am Shyam.”
But he is also clear about the fact that what he writes about is not exotic, it’s his lived experience.
“I believe that the more particular you are, the more universal you become. We all have the same life experiences.
It’s how you process them, depending on cultural input, that is different. When I read a book about another culture, in an odd way, it highlights some of my own experiences. That’s why books on other cultures are so popular.”
Selvadurai’s success as an author is proof enough. His books have been published to rave reviews and he has won several prestigious awards.
He spends a few months each year in Sri Lanka, writing and working on a literary festival and his project, Write to Reconcile.