Warning: Mild spoilers for Taherah Mafia's book "A Very Large Expanse of Sea".
Although I fangirl after that New York Times Bestselling author Taherah Mafi did not intend to read "A Very Large Sea Area."
First, I took it at par. I did not agree with the conspiracy where a Muslim girl – no less a hijabi – was with a non-Muslim. What is? But when I saw that the name of the protagonist, Shirin, was the same as me, even though he had a different spelling, I knew that I had to read it. The parallels went on: The book began in late August, and I began to read it on August 30. I finished the book one night because of Mafia's open heart-to-heart prose.
At the beginning I also made fun of the topic 9/11 of the book. We do not need another 9/11 book that pulls on the nerves and feeding trends of the US.
However, reading about the bullying and pain that Shirin suffered was so crazy for me because it enabled me to face the racism and prejudices that I have experienced in recent years. Tweet
But as I read, I realized that the quiet and isolated suffering of Shirin reflected my recent experiences. And although I have not suffered the physical and verbal abuse that many hijabis committed after 9/11, I now face this problem. However, reading about the bullying and pain that Shirin suffered was so crazy for me because it enabled me to face the racism and prejudices that I have experienced in recent years. I showed my vulnerable and sad feelings. I feel less American because I have skin color and hijab.
I live in Southern California and at the time of September 11, 2001, it was still the liberal, diverse place we remember. People stared at me but mostly treated me normally. I could boast that I could do and wear what I wanted in my state. Only when I went to New York and Chicago, I was extremely outlawed and shouted. But now that I fall directly in with Trump's presidency, I'm racially profiled in my hometown of Los Angeles. When I was finally bumped into a white man in my local post office and the policeman said, "It's no big deal," I decided that I could no longer risk my safety and health with the hijab. After 17 years I took it off.
It has been said many times, but it is worth repeating it: American Muslims felt the pain of 9/11. It hurts that some of my American compatriots do not believe or care about this statement. Tweet
I strongly admire Shirin's bravery to commit to hijab, and all the hijabis who still carry him praise God. High school is the hardest time to wear. I vividly remember thinking about wearing it in high school but being afraid of the classmates' judgment or refusal. Admissibly, Shirin deals well with isolation and lives her life as she sees fit.
It has been said many times, but it is worth repeating it: American Muslims felt the pain of 9/11. It hurts that some of my American compatriots do not believe or care about this statement. A few years ago I went to a therapist. In the middle of the session, she growled, glaring at me, "I lived in New York before 9/11."
I answered politely and kindly, "Oh, I lived there, too. My uncle worked on the twin towers when September 11th happened. He had to walk all the way home to New Jersey, with debris on his face. "
She snorted and looked down. In the next session, she screamed at me again. I left the office and did not return.
More than what happened to hijabs in America, I am sadder about what happened to America. California was once an open-minded utopia; A harbor where I felt safe, driving from Southern California to Northern California. Now it reminds me of the southern red states that we have mocked. Now I hesitate to go to my local park, where I saw a huge MAGA sign on a Winnebago. Now security personnel are following me in the shops. Well, as Mafi put it so aptly, I can not say if people are "rude or racist."
Also, I can not wait to see the breakdance on the big screen when this New York Times bestseller becomes a movie. I thought it was great that Shirin danced in the book. I heard Mafi speak live about the book and I know that they are also breakdances. I thought the character in the book was a little too cursed, but I found it funny when she upset people a few times. I hope that will do it in the movie as well.
I believe that America (or at least California) will someday return to the open-minded refuge it once was. But I think it will be a long, violent and emotionally painful journey for us. I am glad that I have books like "A Very Large Expanse of Sea" that help me to manage and edit.
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