Bibliophile | ‘Sunburnt Veils’ explores prevalence of racism in elite institutions

Sunburnt Veils
by Sara Haghdoosti
Wakefield Press

Tara received a good bye hug from her mother as she left for her first day Sydney University, but she missed the traditional Iranian first day blessing that she would have received from her grandmother who had died the previous year.

Having failed to get the ATAR required to get into medicine, Tara is studying medical science, determined to get the grades so she could transfer into medicine. Tara lives in a world of privilege as her mother is a lawyer for oil companies and her father, who lives overseas, is a plastic surgeon “slicing up gorgeous women so they could pretend they weren’t aging”.

Much to the horror of both her parents, Tara wears a hijab, having sort comfort in religion when her grandmother died. She realises that “telling people you believe in god is almost like declaring you have an imaginary friend” and the hijab was a neon sign on her head declaring her belief in god… a Muslim god.

Fully consumed by the world of fantasy novels and her determination to get into medicine, she has sworn off dating but two things would disrupt her plans on that first day. Firstly, a chain of events result in her leaving her bag in a lecture theatre and a full scale bomb alert throws the university into chaos.

Secondly, she crosses paths with Alex, the entitled son of the Premier of New South Wales and a famous media personality. Deciding to run for the student union, Tara finds she has so much to learn about how to get votes and how much Alex is trying to live up to the expectations of what everyone else wants him to be.

Her best friend Mitra, who opens her eyes to how much gender is a performance, is accepted as a lesbian but Tara’s hijab singles her out for enormous amounts of prejudice. To wear or not to wear the hijab is never debated as Tara’s battle against her detractors takes centre stage, and the growing attraction towards Alex comes a close second.

Sara Haghdoosti draws from experiences as a politically active student running for student government at university and organising the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. Sara, who is currently the Deputy Director of Win Without War, wanted to write a book for her fifteen-year-old self to show that racism can exist in the most elite institutions.

Lezly Herbert

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