A Very Large Expanse of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Book - 2018
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A year after 9/11, Muslim teenager Shirin has completely withdrawn from social life, until she meets Ocean James in her biology class and is tempted to actually let her guard down.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Harpe, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers,, 2018.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062866561
Characteristics: 310 pages ;,22 cm.


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Apr 28, 2019

I raced through this lovely little YA novel, thoroughly engaged with the characters. I appreciated the representation of the daily, hourly, microaggressions that people in the dominant culture seem to feel so entitled in directing to people who are 'other,' especially after 9/11: “I was so raw from repeated exposure to cruelty that now even the most minor abrasions left a mark.” Shirin's anger and non-engagement from her surroundings make perfect sense: “I could no longer distinguish people from monsters. I looked out at the world around me and no longer saw nuance. I saw nothing but the potential for pain and the subsequent need to protect myself, constantly.” I appreciated that the author made the point that it is not up to the marginalized to educate the people in the dominant culture. I appreciated the gap between parents and children, contextualized in the kind of aggressions they experienced, and leading to a failure of empathy, parent to child: “People had been shitting on me for having the wrong name/race/religion and socioeconomic status since as far back as I could remember, but my life had been so easy in comparison to my parents’ own upbringing that they genuinely couldn’t understand why I didn’t wake up singing every morning.” And I appreciated the step into complexity, recognizing that the stereotyping goes both ways. “I wondered, for the very first time, if maybe I was doing this whole thing wrong. If maybe I'd allowed myself to be blinded by my own anger to the exclusion of all else. If maybe, just maybe, I'd been so determined not to be stereotyped that I'd begun to stereotype everyone around me.” All of this in the context of a sweet love story, and Shirin's maturing: “The more I got to know people, the more I realized we were all just a bunch of frightened idiots walking around in the dark, bumping into each other and panicking for no reason at all. So I started turning on a light....” My only hesitation: I was as shocked as Shirin was at the mercurial shift in her popularity at school -- success at breakdancing is sufficient to overcome Islamaphobia?

JCLMegB Feb 27, 2019

Warning: You’ll laugh, you might cry, and you probably won’t be able to put this phenomenal book down.
The main character, Shirin, is justifiably angry, bitter, and hardened. She’s been shuffled an unenviable hand as a Persian-American Muslim woman wearing a headscarf to her new high school in a post-9/11 America. Shririn’s character is so fleshed out, you’ll half expect her to breakdance out of the pages. And in this book, you get to ride along as Shirin finds reasons to let her heart and her spirit soften a bit.
The author masterfully captures and portrays the filth of racism as well as the electricity that is mutual teenage first love. Ocean (yes, that’s really his name) is awoken from his white male privilege as he witnesses first-hand the hate and racism that is thrown at Shirin. And in so many ways, Shirin awakes to discover that even though humans can be truly awful to one another, rushing to judgment and building up walls is never the way to go.
In a day and age in the US when fear and the groupthink phenomenon are so prevalent, this book is a must-read.

Jan 24, 2019

I love that Shin is angry. I love that Shin chooses to put up walls and has to deal, at least a little bit, with what that means when she doesn't quite pay *enough* attention to the stuff outside those walls.

Most of all, I love that this feels real. It feels complete. The romance is a little on the soppy insta-love side -- but really, teens can feel that way for sure. It doesn't feel unrealistic (even if it doesn't feel like it'd last forever).

This book was great. Heartbreaking and soothing and powerful and inspirational all at once.

And I really just want to learn to breakdance now.

Jan 17, 2019

is an eye-opening story about the realities of what it's like to grow up Muslim in the United States, especially if you wear the hijab. I really enjoyed Shirin's character: she's strong, witty, and intelligent and just as flawed and complex as any other teen. I do genuinely hope Netflix or Hulu picks this up for a film, especially for the break-dancing scenes.

OPL_AutumnH Aug 08, 2018

One of my favorite reads of 2018 so far. I loved Shirin. You cannot help but sympathize with the tough demeanor she presents - the way people let their fear turn to prejudice and hatred made me so angry. Bonus points for wonderful Muslim American representation and break dancing!


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JCLEmilyD Dec 28, 2018

"...you sacrificed my comfort just to make yourself seem progressive. You put me in that shitty situation because you thought it would be shocking and exciting." (p.123-124)

JCLEmilyD Dec 27, 2018

"People struggled to believe this, because people struggled to believe women in general. It was one of the greatest frustrations of my life."

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