A Very Large Expanse of Sea: Book Review

Marisa Del Borrello, Staff Reporter

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Shirin is a 16 Muslim girl trying to find her own way a year after 9/11. She constantly had to start over, with her parents moving every couple of months for better jobs to be able to support Shirin and her brother, Navid. Relocating often also means that she has to start from the bottom over and over again, meeting new teachers and trying to get through a whole new round of racist and Islamophobic comments.

It’s hard for Shirin to blend into the background of things now since 9/11, which only makes her one wish to stay hidden even harder than before, so she learns to adapt. Shirin figures out how to stay hidden in the spotlight: keeping her head down and glaring at anyone who comes her way. She nearly triumphs isolation, until she meets Ocean.

Ocean is the high school’s star Basketball player, widely known to just about everyone-except Shirin-who couldn’t care less about him until she falls in love with him. However, Ocean and Shirin being together seems to baffle and outrage just about everyone, including parents and teachers. The pair quickly finds out how low people’s tolerance for something different can really be.

Even now, the ignorance of other cultures still seems to ring true. Tahereh Mafi’s depiction of the world eighteen years ago still seems alarmingly accurate. Mafi gives us a new angle of a huge problem that you hear about almost every day. A Very Large Expanse Of Sea gives a twist of a standard romance story that most teenagers tend to pick up, and a story that can mold itself into the lense of culture that is rarely shown realistically on screen or page.

Throughout the book you see that Mafi makes sure to elaborate on the difference of Shirin’s culture to our own, the importance of family dinners at exactly five o’clock on the dot every day, morning and afternoon prayers. The reader can quickly start to understand the meaning behind preserving Persian traditions.

All of these small things can become something heartfelt and true, and Mafi does an outstanding job of telling the story of a young girl growing up in a judgemental world. For the readers who like books about finding your strength and overcoming prejudice, this could be a great read for you.

 

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea: Book Review