For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments.
Intertwined with the narrative about the meetings are Ms. Nafisi's experiences teaching English Literature in a couple of Tehran universities, life in Iran during the early days of the Khomeini government, etc., and her interpretations of various western works including "Lolita", "Washington Square" and "Daisy Miller" by Henry James, among others.