While in prison, suffering for no crime other than her father’s outspoken criticism of the war and the government, we learn of Leila’s life in flashback. Born into a wealthy family in Tehran, she grew up in pre-revolution Iran. She relates stories of her childhood, the colors and influences that filled her world. She tells of clashing relationships, as her desire for education and independence conflicts with her mother’s vision of a submissive Iranian daughter. Leila’s Western upbringing is contrasted with her cousin Mojtabah, whose strict Islamic fundamentalist background embroils him in the evolving Iran.
It’s at university in the United States that she first feels the pressure of radical Islam, and there she meets Jack and falls in love. Their relationship is further complicated because he’s a Christian, involved in a cult-like community. Back in Iran, student uprisings and worker revolts launch a wide-spread religious revolution. Leila’s cousin Mojtabah becomes a leader in the tide of discontent sweeping the country. Her relationship with Jack deepens, but the forces of fundamentalism threaten to tear them apart.
Leila returns to Iran and confronts dramatic changes. She must adapt to Islamic law, dress in hijab, and live under the restrictive rule of the Islamic Republic. Raised in a more-tolerant Iran, followed by a progressive American education, she struggles to conform to the restrictive mold of an Iranian woman under the new regime.
A story of triumph and hope in the face of fanaticism and intolerance, Leila’s tale echoes events that shaped the lives of people in Iran. At its heart, her message is the interconnected oneness of all people, the belief that despite religious and cultural differences, we are all the same. A poignant portrait of Iran, it’s a story of sadness and joy, unveiling the human emotions behind historical events.