Novel reveals post 9/11 life of Muslim teenager

Tahereh Mafi reveals the struggles of a female Muslim teenager in her 2018 novel.

“A Very Large Expanse Of Sea” is a novel written by Tahereh Mafi (30), published back in October of 2018. 

The story starts out by introducing our main character, Shirin, as well as her frequent moves from one city to the next. It may seem like a normal part of life to some, but to Shirin, it’s a constant happening, throwing herself into new schools over and over again. Despite her parents’ reassurance that each move was for the better, they failed to see Shirin’s constant struggle with being an outcast. 

“People were always looking at me, and when I looked back they often took it as an invitation to speak to me, and when they spoke to me, they nearly always said something offensive or stupid or both, and I’d decided a long time ago that it was easier to pretend they just didn’t exist.”

Being a teenager is no easy feat, let alone being a teenager who wears a hijab in America after 9/11 had happened. This simple fact causes Shirin’s classmates to hold fear and often anger toward her for no other reason than that she dressed differently and they had decided she was connected with the events of the tragic terrorist attack. Shirin’s way of coping with being an outcast? She spends her days relying on her music and breakdancing practice to keep her company, effectively ignoring those who dared to talk to her. 

But what will happen when a seemingly mysterious classmate with an unusual name decides to try and break through the walls she has built around herself? Will Shirin be able to face the world around her with the support of this strange boy?

With 310 pages, “A Very Large Expanse Of Sea” will open your eyes to the world of a Muslim girl living in America post 9/11. Mafi, who herself proudly wears a scarf, does a spectacular job bringing readers into the mind of this young girl who wants nothing more than to live out her life without being judged for what religion she follows or for what she chooses to wear on her head.

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