Summary (from the publisher):
It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.
She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.
Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart—
Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.
An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope—in the midst of a modern war.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I read Tahereh Mafi’s first YA contemporary, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, back in 2018, and was recently fortunate enough to dive back into her second & latest YA contemporary release, An Emotion of Great Delight. Fans of the former book & readers who enjoy hard-hitting YA releases will especially enjoy An Emotion of Great Delight. I wish I could think of better word than ‘enjoy,’ as this book has some super dark and somber moment surrounding grief, loss, and harassment.
Set two years after 9/11, Muslim American teen, Shadi, experiences both verbal and physical harassment nearly every day as the Muslim community becomes a larger target in the US. Shadi is grappling with so much loss, between the death of her brother a year prior, her father’s health issues, her mother who is deeply depressed, her sister who she feels like she cannot talk to, and her best friend who mysteriously dropped her a few months ago. The only person Shadi can remotely hold a conversation with is said former ex-best friend’s brother, Ali, who should be off limits, but helps Shadi in her darkest moments.
An Emotion of Great Delight is the perfect book to devour in two sittings or less. I read the book between two sittings, wanting to know more about Shadi’s past and how she’s dealing with trauma and her everyday in the present. As mentioned above, there are some hard scenes as Shadi is lost in her grief and even perhaps more vividly, is harassed on a nearly daily basis for her religion and for wearing a hijab. Tahereh Mafi paints a very real and horrible reality that provides so much perspective for readers to learn from. I think I liked following Shadi’s journey most, as her struggles to accept the death of her brother and her father’s role. I didn’t necessarily mind the Ali storyline, but like A Very Large Expanse of Sea, I think this book could have stood on its own without the romance, as I wanted to dive deeper into Shadi’s family dynamics.
I don’t want to draw too many similarities between An Emotion of Great Delight and A Very Large Expanse of Sea just because they both feature female teenage Muslim American protagonists whose lives are changed in the wake of 9/11, but their writing styles are very similar. Tahereh Mafi has a very lyrical sense of writing, which was especially hard-hitting in the more emotional scenes, However, I sometimes did want some more set-up or rationale in An Emotion of Great Delight, especially when it came to Ali and Shadi’s relationship. I also wanted to see a little bit more resolution in some of Shadi’s other relationships, especially with her parents and Zahra. At the same time, I do appreciate that Tahereh Mafi entraps her readers alongside Shadi in a short term and specific moment in her life, leaving readers wanting nothing but the best for Shadi.
Overall, I recommend checking out An Emotion of Great Delight if you’re looking for a read that will make you read from beginning to end in one sitting, but thinking & reflecting for long after. I’m looking forward to seeing what Tahereh Mafi might write in the YA contemporary world next!
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts & opinions.
Is An Emotion of Great Delight on your TBR? Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? Share in the comments!