A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is about a sixteen year old girl named Shirin. Shirin wears a hijab and is treated extremely unkindly by her classmates, teachers, and complete strangers. This story takes place in 2002 in a town obsessed with basketball. Shirin has become quite good at suppressing her emotions and blocking out the world with music and a tough exterior. The only solace in her day is breakdance practice with her brother, Navid and his friends. Then she meets a classmate by the name of Ocean who makes her think that maybe there are people worth talking to. Ocean is the star basketball player at school and he desperately wants to get to know Shirin. When their interactions make others angry and cruel, the two must decide whether the connection they have is worth protecting.
At the beginning of the novel I felt like Shirin was a bit harsh to those around her. She didn’t have the best attitude and seemed really passive about life. Then I learned more about her experiences with racism and how she felt like she couldn’t confide in her parents about her personal life. When her breakdancing partners and brother confronted her about how she comes off to other people, I could see Shirin start to grow and reconsider her approach. When you are sixteen it’s easy to be angry with the old, on top of normal teenage emotions Shirin was going through both verbal and physical abuse all because of her religion. I began to feel her frustration and wanted to scream at her peers, too. This book may be fictional, but there are enough bigoted people out there that it is easy to be up in arms about the treatment minorities face in this country. Surprisingly Shirin was able to block that ugly side of people out and focus on what made her happy. That was what made her story inspiring and brave.
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