It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.


5 “eye opener” stars

“It didn’t matter how unaccented my English was. It didn’t matter that I told people, over and over again, that I was born here, in America, that English was my first language, that my cousins in Iran made fun of me for speaking mediocre Farsi with an American accent -it didn’t matter. Everyone assumed I was fresh off the boat from a foreign land.”

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is why I read.

Thank you Tahereh Mafi for helping me to keep my eyes open.
Thank you for helping me get less prejudiced.

I finished A Very Large Expanse of Sea in one day. I devoured this book like my life depended on it.
From the very first sentences I was horrified by what Shirin had to endure every day. Just for her choice to wear a scarf around the head.
How many violences were imparted on her.
Because of the heinous actions of some she was assimilated to terrorists and treated like one.

And then I thought:” how many times haven’t you be slightly frigthened by someone looking muslim and looking menacing to you? How many times have you been suspicious because they were different and terrorists had taken a stand, drawn a line?”
And each time I felt guilty because my frightened mind kept associating stranger with danger. Yet I knew this was false and wrong.
How many times did I think “Don’t let them win. Don’t let them create a cleavage. Don’t let them manipulate you and turn you into someone you are not: a hater.”

Reading Shirin’s struggle was both heartbreaking, humbling and enlightening.

Tahere Mafi speaks with her heart to your soul.

She makes you see from the inside what it is to be hated by people who don’t even know you.

Shirin was brave and strong. So strong.
She never backed down . Wearing the scarf was her decision. No one coerced her. It would have been easy to take it off. She would not have been scared every day.
All the time.

But then they would have won
In this Shirin reminded me so much of Starr from THUG. Another frightened girl but who faced her fears, did the right thing.

I loved seeing all this battle, all the unfairness from the inside. For as much as I felt ashamed somehow it also opened my eyes a little bit more. I hope it helped make me a better person. Wiser . Kinder.

Ocean was just the perfect choice for Shirin. Because he had the all american good look on the outside but he too suffered. He was vulnerable and had his own kind of strength. More than physical it was moral strenght. He was remarkable. Level headed, determined and mature beyond his age.

I loved the romance of course. With its slow blossom. With Shirin’s reluctance and her fears for what would come their way.

“You don’t know how complicated something like this would be. You don’t know how your life would be different with me. You just don’t know”.

It brushed a strong and realistic portrait of the difficulties many mixed couples have to face in small towns or after shocking circumstances.

This book is an open scream to the world.

A plea not to make amalgams.

A shout to never judge people without getting to know them first.

An ode to equal and fair treatment.


Have you read it? Or any similar book?

Thanks for reading!


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  1. I cannot wait to read this! I am patiently waiting for my library hold to come in and you have me super excited with those quotes. It is such an important read and I am so happy that you enjoyed it so much.