A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi’s “A Very Large Expanse of Sea” is a gripping novel set in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Shirin is a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who faces prejudice and discrimination in a post-9/11 America. Shirin’s school experiences are marred by racism, leaving her feeling isolated and misunderstood.

Summary of A Very Large Expanse of the Sea

Shirin creates a protective shell of indifference and isolation around herself to deal with the hostility she encounters. She keeps her true emotions hidden, refusing to engage with others or let anyone in. Everything changes, however, when she meets Ocean, a kind-hearted and empathetic boy who sees beyond her walls and sees her for who she truly is.

Shirin begins to question her self-imposed barriers and the assumptions she has made about others as their friendship grows. Ocean challenges her assumptions, encouraging her to shed her emotional armour and embrace vulnerability. Shirin learns to trust and open herself up to the possibility of love and acceptance as a result of their friendship.

Along with the blossoming romance, the novel delves into Shirin’s identity as both an American teenager and a Muslim. She struggles to find a sense of belonging as she struggles with the clash between her cultural heritage and the expectations of society around her.

Very Large Expanse of the Sea

Shirin is confronted with the realities of racism and prejudice throughout the story, encountering derogatory comments, stares, and even physical attacks. She does, however, discover the power of empathy, compassion, and understanding in bridging divides and cultivating genuine connections.

Shirin learns to find her voice and stand up to injustice as she navigates high school and the challenges that come her way. The novel is a moving depiction of adversity-induced resilience, self-empowerment, and the pursuit of justice.

“A Very Large Expanse of Sea” offers a heartfelt exploration of the experiences and emotions of Muslim teenagers in a world that often fails to understand them, thanks to Tahereh Mafi’s evocative writing. Identity, racism, cultural clashes, and the transformative power of love and empathy are all addressed.

In an increasingly divided society, the story serves as a reminder of the importance of acceptance, compassion, and breaking down barriers.

Characters in A Very Large Expanse of the Sea

“A Very Large Expanse of Sea” features a diverse cast of compelling characters who play important roles in the plot. The following are the novel’s main characters:


Shirin, the story’s protagonist and narrator, is a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who has faced racism and prejudice in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She is smart, tough, and fiercely independent. Shirin deals with discrimination by hiding behind a mask of indifference and isolation.

She goes through a transformative journey throughout the novel, learning to navigate her emotions, trust others, and find her voice in a society that frequently marginalizes her.


Shirin’s classmate Ocean is a charismatic and compassionate young man. Unlike others, he sees Shirin for who she truly is beneath her tough exterior. Ocean challenges her assumptions and encourages her to shed her emotional armor. He is determined to break down the barriers between them and form a genuine connection with Shirin, eventually developing a deep bond with her.


Shirin’s older brother, Navid, is protective and encouraging. He understands Shirin’s struggles as a Muslim in post-9/11 America because he shares Shirin’s experiences. Navid encourages Shirin to pursue her interests and talents, particularly her breakdancing talent.

Themes Explored in A Very Large Expanse of the Sea

“A Very Large Expanse of Sea” explores a number of powerful themes that run throughout the story. Some of the novel’s key themes are as follows:

Racism and Prejudice

The novel addresses the pervasive issue of racism and prejudice, focusing specifically on the discrimination faced by Muslims in post-9/11 America. It sheds light on the daily challenges, stereotypes, and hostility Shirin and her community face, emphasizing the impact of these biases on their lives.

Identity and Self-Expression

The theme of identity is central to the story, as Shirin struggles to express her true identity in a society that frequently marginalizes her. The novel follows her journey of self-discovery, illustrating the importance of accepting oneself.

Empathy and Understanding

The novel emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding in breaking down barriers and fostering meaningful connections through the interactions of the characters. It challenges stereotypes and encourages readers to look beyond first impressions, promoting empathy as a catalyst for change and unity.

Resilience and Strength

The theme of resilience runs throughout the story as Shirin and her family navigate the difficulties brought on by racism. The novel examines the human spirit’s resilience, highlighting the strength and determination required to persevere in the face of adversity.

About Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi is an Iranian-born American author. Shatter Me, Mafi’s debut novel, was written while she was growing up in Connecticut and Northern California. Her other works include Furthermore Book Series, Woven Kingdom, and An Emotion of Great Delight. Here is the list of all her books by Tahereh Mafi’s released till now.