An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi’s novel “An Emotion of Great Delight” delves into the complexities of human emotions and the long-term effects of traumatic events.

The book takes readers on an emotional journey, exploring themes of grief, identity, resilience, and the power of hope against the backdrop of the post-9/11 era. Mafi offers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of personal growth and the pursuit of healing through the eyes of the protagonist, Shadi.

Shadi, a young Muslim girl navigating the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is central to the novel. Shadi begins the novel grappling with the weight of survivor’s guilt. Navid, her brother, was killed in the attacks, and his absence has left a gaping hole in her heart.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Shadi feels the weight of the collective blame placed on Muslims. She has to deal with hostile stares, whispered insults, and the constant fear of being singled out because of her identity.

Her journey becomes a personal exploration of her faith and cultural heritage as the story progresses. She questions Islam’s teachings and struggles to reconcile them with the reality of a world that distrusts and fears her religion.

Shadi is torn between wanting to embrace her identity and wanting to blend in to avoid judgement and prejudice from both her Muslim community and the larger society.

Shadi finds solace in her friendships in the midst of the turmoil. Ali, a childhood friend who has also suffered the trauma of loss, is close to her.

They navigate the challenges of growing up in a post-9/11 world together, supporting one another through their shared pain and offering a ray of hope.

She also reflects on her memories of Navid, their close relationship, and the dreams they once shared throughout the novel. These memories serve as a bittersweet reminder of what could have been. Shadi’s grief is palpable as she struggles to move on while carrying the burden of the past.

Characters in an Emotion of Great Delight

Tahereh Mafi‘s “An Emotion of Great Delight” features a diverse cast of characters who add depth and complexity to the story. Let us look into the lives of the main characters:


Tahereh Mafi’s “An Emotion of Great Delight” protagonist, Shadi, is a complex and introspective character whose journey serves as the narrative’s focal point. Her character is shaped by the events of 9/11, as she struggles with grief, survivor’s guilt, and the complexities of her Muslim-American identity.


Despite the fact that he is no longer alive, Shadi’s brother, Navid, plays an important role in the story. His presence is felt throughout the story, serving as a reminder of Shadi and her family’s great loss.

Navid’s memory embodies the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that were shattered by the tragic events of 9/11. Navid’s character highlights the impact of his absence on the lives of those who loved him through flashbacks and Shadi’s recollections.


Ali is Shadi’s childhood friend and a constant source of comfort throughout the novel. He, like Shadi, has suffered loss in the aftermath of 9/11. Their friendship becomes a lifeline as they face the challenges of growing up in an Islamophobic world.

Ali’s character serves as a counterpoint to Shadi’s experiences, demonstrating the variety of reactions to tragedy and the various paths to healing. In the face of adversity, his presence symbolises the strength of friendship and solidarity.

Shadi’s Parents

Shadi’s parents are important characters who go through their own emotional journeys. Her father, who is depressed, withdraws from society and isolates himself within their home. His difficulties reflect the enormous cost of grief and the profound effects of trauma.

Shadi’s mother, on the other hand, is struggling with her own grief while trying to provide strength and support for her family. Mafi explores the complexities of parental love, the fragility of mental health, and the various ways in which grief manifests in different people through the portrayal of Shadi’s parents.

Themes Explored in An Emotion of Great Delight

An Emotion of Great Delight delves into several compelling themes that strike a chord with readers. Let’s dig deeper into the themes:

Grief and Loss

The novel explores the profound impact of grief and loss on individuals and communities. Shadi’s emotional landscape has been shaped by the loss of her brother, Navid, in the 9/11 attacks. Mafi delves into the various aspects of grief, such as survivor’s guilt, anger, and the struggle to find meaning in the midst of tragedy. The story delves into the aftereffects of loss, depicting the various ways in which it can occur.

Islamophobia and Prejudice

“An Emotion of Great Delight” investigates Islamophobia and the impact of prejudice on the lives of Muslim-Americans. The story sheds light on the stereotypes, discrimination, and marginalization that members of the Muslim community face. By exposing the negative consequences of Islamophobia, the novel challenges readers to confront their own prejudices and consider the value of empathy, understanding, and allyship.

Family and Relationships

The novel explores the complexities of familial relationships, as well as the strains that grief and trauma can put on them. Shadi’s strained relationship with her parents, particularly her father’s depression and withdrawal, serves as a moving examination of how loss affects family dynamics.

The story also underlines the importance of friendship and the support found in one’s chosen family. The novel explores the ways in which individuals can find solace, connection, and strength in their interactions with others through the portrayal of various relationships.

Identity and Belonging

Shadi’s journey is centered on her search for identity and a sense of belonging. As a Muslim-American, she struggles with the complexities of her cultural and religious identity in an Islamophobic society. The novel examines the conflict between preserving one’s heritage and assimilation into a dominant culture, as well as the expectations placed on members of marginalized communities.

Resilience and Coping: The theme of resilience pervades the novel. Shadi and her family and friends navigate the aftermath of tragedy, demonstrating their tenacity in the face of adversity. Mafi focuses on the characters’ various coping mechanisms, ranging from withdrawal to activism, as they seek to heal and rebuild their lives.

Tahereh Mafi’s Biography

Tahereh Mafi is an American author of Iranian descent. Raised in Connecticut and Northern California, Mafi’s first novel was Shatter Me. She has since expanded the Shatter Me universe and released subsequent sequels. In 2017, she announced that she was working on another trilogy in the Shatter Me universe, which will be told from the dual POVs of Juliette Ferrars and Warner, the protagonist and antagonist, respectively. Her other works include Furthermore Book Series, Woven Kingdom, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, and An Emotion of Great Delight. Here is the list of all her books released till now.