Emily Mead
April 11, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, where a stray lock of hair or socks of an immodest color can lead to a woman’s detention, one brave literature professor handpicked seven female students for weekly discussions of forbidden Western classics. In her vivid memoir, Professor Nafisi artfully intertwines her own coming-of-age in prerevolutionary Tehran with the daily frustrations of her pupils. Although long quotes from lectures and familiar books bog down her narrative, Nafisi relates her girls’ moving stories with quiet sympathy. As her passion for reading infects them, the young women begin thinking of themselves, subversively, as individuals — despite a life spent hidden under anonymous black robes and head scarves.

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