Farmer Fiction: ‘A Very Large Expanse Of Sea’ tells fascinating story of Muslim girl

Author Tahereh Mafi releases yet another realistic fiction novel


Edna Hernandez

Tahereh Mafi’s “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” was published on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.

Author Tahereh Mafi released a realistic fiction novel, “A Very Large Expanse Of Sea,” on Oct. 16, 2018. This is the 12th book Mafi released and it probably won’t be the last. She is most known for her book series, “Shatter Me.” Mafi is a 30 year-old Iranian-American who is well known for selling young adult fiction novels and is also a New York Times bestseller.

Taking place after the events of 9/11, Shirin, a Muslim 16-year-old girl is stereotyped for her culture and where most people think she came from. She is a timid and closed-off individual who finds it difficult to make any friends.  

The novel transpires in a school where Shirin feels like she doesn’t belong. Living in a society that blames her for the events of 9/11 because she wears a hijab, results in her getting physically and emotionally bullied. Her parents find this isn’t worth worrying for because they have been through far worse. The reaction from her parents wasn’t exactly gratifying and didn’t create a positive environment for Shirin. The audience would find this infuriating because the mother and father didn’t care for their child’s well being and instead they let her run into danger without anyone being there for her. Shirin struggles with finding herself and her mind is swarming with hate. Not a lot of people enjoy sticking around her for too long, resulting in her building up walls that prevent her from trusting anyone. In the midst of all this, she later finds that not everything is atrocious and not everyone is similar.  

A young boy, Ocean, tries to break down her barrier; he’s not there just to comment on her appearance or her culture, but he wishes to get to know her, her background, and to be able to understand her. Readers can see Ocean and Shirin have an abnormal relationship even if they are two completely different people – some would even say they liked one another more than just friends.

Shirin has a hard time understanding why anyone would want to treat her the way they do just for the way she dresses and the way she portrays herself even if she iterated countless times she was born in America. People suspect if someone is multicultural then they do not belong. In this case, the reader would find this irritating and offensive in some ways.

Shirin never had anyone hit her or lash out at her for the way she dresses until after 9/11; she didn’t have anyone to help her, she felt completely alone. However, her brother, Navid, was the opposite. He was handsome, didn’t have anyone throwing harsh remarks toward him, and he wasn’t Shirin. Apart from her everyday life, he doesn’t need to walk around wearing a hijab every day like she has to. Readers find this upsetting even for women because it shows labels really do exist.

She would always walk around the streets like a normal human being and always got harsh remarks no matter how she dresses. “I didn’t understand how anyone could be so violently angry with me for something I hadn’t done, so much that they’d feel justified in assaulting me in broad daylight as I walked down the street.” No one was ever kind to her outside of her family and people were blaming her culture for the happenings of 9/11. Some believe the only reason why they pick on her is because of her hijab, which shouldn’t be a good reason.   

Even after all of this, she somehow manages to get past all of it with the shrug of her shoulders. Even if she receives insults like, “You’re in America now, so you should dress like it.” It never was easy for her to be nice to other people at her school or anywhere else for that matter. She always kept silent and she never gave anyone her attention simply because they were not worth caring for. Shirin is an open-minded girl and she never listens to anyone, not even her brother.  

This realistic fiction novel is interesting and has a deep meaningful touch to the readers’ hearts, and it deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars for its emotional appeal. This is also a highly recommended book for readers interested in realistic fiction and multicultural beliefs.