Warda's Reviews > A Very Large Expanse of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
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really liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks, library-reads, tt-diversity

I’m finding it difficult forming words and putting it onto paper here. I felt a whole range of emotions reading this book and it became exhausting to read. In a good way.

This is a semi-autobiographical story, set in America, following the tragedy of 9/11, where we follow Shirin trying to navigate a world where Islamophobia is rampant, her existence questionable. The hate is apparent and because she stands out due to her hijab, she’s on the constant end of receiving racist remarks and at times, abuse.

Her anger was palpable and rightly so. The hurt and the constant ridicule she was facing left no room for her to breathe, no space for her to sort through her emotions. She locks herself up from the outside world and her own feelings in order to protect herself. There was no choice but to have a guard up. It was a lot to take in. The writing forced me to feel it all. It was suffocating.

Amidst all this, she finds comfort in books and break-dancing, whilst also trying to sort through her emotions as she begins falling for a boy.

I think reading this book made it quite clear the lack of Muslim literature we have access to. They are scattered and very few and far in between. Authentic Muslim voices in the West are rarely heard through any form of media and if they are, they aren’t positive. And the books that are being published now is a controlled narrative by a publishing world that is still very white.

It makes you wonder why. Is the lack thereof due to fear? That it won’t be marketable? Believing that it won’t resonate with other readers because a connection won’t be formed? But isn’t that the whole point of books? For us to be exposed to something slightly alien and for others to at least understand that these experiences are out there and are just as valid even if you might not agree? That the point isn’t the come to a agreement, but to acknowledge it exists. Our narratives, in its plethora and all its colours, matters.

These stories might not represent our faith but they represent our people, in all it’s glory and wonder and failures and that was Shirin’s story to me. I could relate to her anger. I know I have walked around with this look on my face and my guard up just so people would not approach me and/or have the nerve to comment on my attire and my beliefs. My guard had to be up just so I could be prepared for any kind of attack, even if the threat wasn’t there.
And don’t get me started on the days where the news would report on a terrorist attack. My ‘stank face’ would come out even more.

It’s not easy holding on to your faith in a world that refuses to understand your world. But we fight through it, because this faith of our means something to us.

I hope from now on the publishing world not only acknowledge their failure at providing us with authentic stories, but are trying their best to accommodating those voices that are demanding it. Shit needs to change.
Enough is enough.
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2018 – Shelved
February 23, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
May 18, 2019 – Started Reading
June 2, 2019 –
page 47
15.82% "“I thought women were gorgeous no matter what they wore, and I didn’t think they owed anyone an explanation for their sartorial choices. Different women felt comfortable in different outfits.”"
June 7, 2019 –
page 148
49.83% "Ocean is so damn precious!"
June 7, 2019 –
page 250
84.18% "I never understood the whole sentiment of if you care or love someone, you let them go.
Am I the only one that’s confused by this statement? 🤔"
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: audiobooks
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: library-reads
June 7, 2019 – Shelved as: tt-diversity
June 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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message 1: by Puck (last edited Jun 08, 2019 05:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Puck Thank you for your honest review Wanda. 😘 You are so right: the literature world needs to acknowledge Authentic Muslim voices and let them be published: we need more books like this one.
How did you feel about Shirin's connection with her faith? I love the scenes about the Ramadan, but I kind of wanted more...is that strange?


Warda Puck wrote: "Thank you for your honest review Wanda. 😘 You are so right: the literature world needs to acknowledge Authentic Muslim voices and let them be published: we need more books like this one.
How did y..."


Not strange. I always want that too when a book is said to be a Muslim story. I need to faith to be portrayed more clearly. I don’t think there was a connection she had to faith that was clearly put out there. She was just constantly battling people.
It would’ve been nice to read more on what Ramadan is actually like faith-wise, and how a Persian family would have celebrated it culturally.


message 3: by Puck (last edited Jun 08, 2019 05:25AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Puck Warda wrote: "Puck wrote: "Thank you for your honest review Wanda. 😘 You are so right: the literature world needs to acknowledge Authentic Muslim voices and let them be published: we need more books like this on..."

Oh, good to know! I was worried my wish would come off as strange: someone's bond with his or her faith is very personal, so to want more, leaves me feeling inappropriate...but I'm glad to hear it wasn't the case. :)

And it is as you say, there is so much of faith behind Ramadam than just fasting: here in the Netherlands we had Muslims come on television to talk about what Radadam means to them (even the King sat down in a community center to join an Iftar meal).
It would be great if that side was talk about more in literature...


Warda Puck wrote: "Warda wrote: "Puck wrote: "Thank you for your honest review Wanda. 😘 You are so right: the literature world needs to acknowledge Authentic Muslim voices and let them be published: we need more book..."

Definitely not inappropriate. I mean, I completely agree with you. It is very personal relationship and it would’ve been really nice to see more of the faith portrayed in the book. Especially Ramadan. Even the reasoning mentioned didn’t really have much to do with what Islam teaches. But I guess we have a long way to go before a book like that is published. ☺️


message 5: by J & J (new) - added it

J & J Is this book appropriate for a mature 14 year old?


Warda J & J wrote: "Is this book appropriate for a mature 14 year old?"

Yes, it is. ☺️


message 7: by Mayar (new)

Mayar El Mahdy I've started reading in English because there weren't any Arabic books about teens or fighting depression or anything I can relate to, but then I've found no Muslim character that aren't terrorists and/or sexual predators. I've never been to a country where Muslims are a minority but I imagine it's very hard. I really hope western Muslims get more fair representation in books and on TV.


Jessi ♥️ H. Vojsk Such a wonderful review ♥️


EmBibliophile Your words are so thoughtful!! I loved your review!! XX Now I need to read this book ASAP!


Devanshi Agarwal Wonderful review, Warda!
You seem to put your thoughts in such a beautiful way. I felt exactly the same way after listening to this but I can't find the words.


Warda Mayar wrote: "I've started reading in English because there weren't any Arabic books about teens or fighting depression or anything I can relate to, but then I've found no Muslim character that aren't terrorists..."

That’s a problem with our people. They do not understand mental health issues so there are a lack of resources there. There’s no lack of that here, but there aren’t many books by people of colour speaking on mental health either.
It’s a problem all round lol
Fair representation everywhere is needed.


Warda Devanshi wrote: "Wonderful review, Warda!
You seem to put your thoughts in such a beautiful way. I felt exactly the same way after listening to this but I can't find the words."


EmBibliophile wrote: "Your words are so thoughtful!! I loved your review!! XX Now I need to read this book ASAP!"

Jessi ♥️ H. Vojsk wrote: "Such a wonderful review ♥️"

Thank you so much!! ❤️❤️


message 13: by Karima (new) - added it

Karima chermiti What a wonderful review Warda love <3
I want to read this book even more now


message 14: by Rida (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rida Imran (ON HIATUS) This is perhaps the most authentic and beautiful review I've read for this book! I agree with what you said about Muslim Literature; come to think of it even this book which may not even strongly resonate with our beliefs came after Mafi was already a well established author. You're very brave to have mentioned your personal aspect <3


Warda Karima wrote: "What a wonderful review Warda love <3
I want to read this book even more now"


Thanks Karima!! ❤️ I would love to see what your views on this book would be.


Warda Rida wrote: "This is perhaps the most authentic and beautiful review I've read for this book! I agree with what you said about Muslim Literature; come to think of it even this book which may not even strongly r..."

Thanks so much, Rida! ❤️
I think she did that whole thing on purpose. She wanted to establish herself then release a story like this. Probably because it wouldn’t have been released then.


Salma I've been low-key waiting for that review


message 18: by Rida (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rida Imran (ON HIATUS) Warda wrote: "Thanks so much, Rida! ❤️
I think she did that whole thing on purpose. She..."


Yes that's what I meant..this book probably would not have been published if it was her debut.. Hoping for more Muslim literature in the future!


Warda Rida wrote: "Warda wrote: "Thanks so much, Rida! ❤️
I think she did that whole thing on purpose. She..."

Yes that's what I meant..this book probably would not have been published if it was her debut.. Hoping f..."


I really hope we get it. We need it!


Warda Salma wrote: "I've been low-key waiting for that review"

I hope it’s been helpful. 😊


Elizabeth I've just started this, and I'm really liking it right now. I'm really glad I came across your review (whether or not I actually started reading this book) because your words are beautiful, honest, and absolutely true!!


Warda Elizabeth wrote: "I've just started this, and I'm really liking it right now. I'm really glad I came across your review (whether or not I actually started reading this book) because your words are beautiful, honest,..."

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I'm glad you've enjoyed the book. :)


Warda Ahmed wrote: "Please let me know if there's any lgbt content in this book ??? (because I've heared that there is but i dont know what is it) so please...."

I believe a friend of theirs was, but the lbgtq content isn't too apparent.


Warda Ahmed wrote: "Also what about the Islamic rep in it, was it worthy ? Do we get a mention of prayers, ramadan and other stuff ? In your opinion is the main character accurately represented as a muslim ? What do y..."

There are mentions of prayers and Ramadan, but the faith itself isn't focused on. It's mainly Islampophobia.
The thing is, being accurately represented as a Muslim doesn't fit just one category. The main character does represent a young American Muslim, however. She is identified as a Muslim. :)


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