Chapters 26–29

Summary: Chapter 26

Ocean attends Thanksgiving dinner at Shirin’s house. Her parents extol all things Persian and try to teach him some Farsi. Navid arranges fifteen minutes for Ocean to be in Shirin’s room, where they kiss until Navid knocks and Ocean leaves. During a call later that night, Ocean asks Shirin what her hair looks like and then asks her if he’d scare her away if he fell in love with her. Shirin assures him that no, he wouldn’t scare her away.

Summary: Chapter 27

Shirin allows Ocean to drive her to school despite believing that it’s a really bad idea. The second day he drives her, someone calls her “Aladdin.” When a boy throws a cinnamon roll at her, which gets frosting all over her face and hijab, Ocean becomes infuriated and shoves him. Shirin rushes to the bathroom to take off and wash her hijab. Suddenly, a girl barges in, snaps a photo of her hair, and spreads it on social media. Ocean shoves a boy who makes a comment, and Shirin leaves school. Shirin returns to school after classes end for breakdancing practice. There, the boys sympathize with all that happened to Shirin that day, but when they realize that Ocean knows who threw the cinnamon roll, they abruptly leave, find the boy, and beat him up. Later that night the police arrive to talk to Navid, but he isn’t rattled, and the boy doesn’t press charges. 

Summary: Chapter 28

Someone sends an email to the entire school community accusing Ocean of being an un-American terrorist sympathizer. When Coach Hart tells Ocean to stay away from Shirin, Ocean tells the coach to go to hell. Coach Hart corners Shirin and screams that she is destroying Ocean’s life and he wants her to disappear. As Shirin walks home, Linda, Ocean’s mother, Linda, pulls her car over and asks Shirin if they can talk.

Summary: Chapter 29

Linda tries to talk Shirin into ending the relationship with Ocean. She confides that she no longer has money for college because she spent it all, so he will need a scholarship. Linda argues that she is not a bigot, but Shirin hates her, feeling the enormous weight of her request.

Analysis: Chapters 26–29

When Ocean comes to Shirin’s house for Thanksgiving, her sees her room—the private space where she usually talks to him from behind the barrier of her phone or computer. Ocean insists that hiding certain aspects of their relationship, and thereby making it palatable to close-minded people, is allowing those people to be in control. That Shirin wants to “live in his brain” underscores the difference in their perspectives and experiences, but she agrees to compromise. Unfortunately, Shirin’s worst fears are confirmed; the school and the town in general are up in arms.

Shirin bears the brunt of this. Again, her classmates view her as being more visibly “other” and make her the main object of their racism. When the girl in the bathroom takes a picture of Shirin without her headscarf, Shirin’s use of the phrase “I’ll always remember that moment” underscores the utter violation of the girl’s actions and the effect it will have on Shirin for the rest of her life. The incident speaks to the novel’s larger themes; the intent was to “unmask” her “without [her] permission,” to undermine her decision, to compromise her armor and make her feel powerless.

The general reaction of their peers opens Ocean’s eyes. Shirin previously wanted to shield him, but doing so would merely have reinforced the shield he was born with and has lived with his entire life: the shield of his privilege. However, Ocean surprises her. His willingness to stand up for her without hesitating, to cut out people he’s known his entire life, speaks to his strength of character. 

Shirin’s confrontation with Ocean’s coach illustrates the hypocrisy of those who oppose their relationship, and the vulnerability of Shirin’s position. However, this vulnerability provokes Shirin’s anger and her inherent impulse to stand up and fight back. In the end, it’s the conversation with Ocean’s mother that strikes a chord with Shirin. She concedes none of Linda’s points, but Shirin’s already shaky sense of self-worth and the revelation that Ocean’s future hangs in the balance, combined with Shirin’s powerlessness as a teenager and the fact that she, as a Muslim, has yet again become a “convenient scapegoat,” prompts her to make the difficult decision to end their relationship.