Join us for our next book in the Rubber Banned Book Club!



To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, was published in 1960. The book is a profound exploration of racial injustice and moral growth set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s. Narrated by a young girl named Scout Finch, the story unfolds as her father, Atticus Finch, a principled lawyer, defends Tom Robinson, a Black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. The novel illuminates the deeply ingrained racial prejudices and societal norms of the American South during this period, emphasizing the moral complexities faced by individuals in the pursuit of justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most frequently challenged books in the US due to its themes of rape and use of profanity and racial slurs. While numerous attempts have been made to ban the novel since its publication, two successful cases of banning have occurred within the past three years. In 2017, the novel was removed from 8th-grade classrooms in Biloxi, Mississippi due to a complaint from a parent citing the use of the N-word and the fear that the class’ reaction to the word may negatively affect her daughter. After protests from free speech advocates, the novel was re-added to the list of optional readings. However, parental permission was required to read it. The second case occurred in 2018 at schools in Duluth, Minnesota, where copies of both To Kill a Mockingbird and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were removed from the classroom. Unlike the previous case, the book was banned due to the accumulation of complaints over the years. Free speech groups are calling for the restoration of both novels but no changes have yet occurred.

Admission is free. There are 2 sessions. Professional actors will read aloud sections of the book and members discuss.

April 23 (6:30-8:30pm) – meet at the theater (5627 N Lincoln, Chicago).
May 28 (6:30-8:00pm Central) – meet via Zoom.


HARPER LEE – (born 1926, Monroeville, Alabama.—died 2016, Monroeville)

American writer nationally acclaimed for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

Nelle Harper Lee is known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by Library Journal. Ms. Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature in 2007. Her father was a lawyer who served in the Alabama state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate, Truman Capote. After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee accompanied Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching his bestselling book, In Cold Blood. Since publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has granted very few requests for interviews or public appearances.

Harper Lee’s father was Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer who was unsuccessful youthful defense of two African American men convicted of murder. Lee studied law at the University of Alabama, spending a summer as an exchange student at the University of Oxford, but she left for New York City without earning a degree. In New York, she worked as an airline reservationist but soon received financial aid from friends that allowed her to write full-time. With the help of an editor, she transformed a series of short stories into To Kill a Mockingbird.

J.G. SMITH is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. J.G. is thrilled to be here. Onstage: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! and On Clover Road (American Blues); I and You (Peninsula Players); Mother of the Maid (Northlight); The Art of Sisters (Vision Productions); Plantation! (Lookingglass); Romeo and Juliet, Pericles, Love’s Labour’s Lost (The Shakespeare Project of Chicago); The Winter’s Tale, Richard II (Back Room Shakespeare Project); Peter and the Starcatcher (City Equity Theatre); Alice in Wonderland, As You Like It, A Christmas Carol, King Lear (Alabama Shakespeare); Censored on Final Approach (Judson Gym). Onscreen: Knives and Skin (IFCMidnight, Hulu); ARGUS (WarnerMedia); Short Comings (MTV); Dreaming Grand Avenue (Music Box Films); The Dancing Monkey (ATWA Productions); The World’s Astonishing News! (NTV). As a performance artist, J.G. has debuted work with Chicago Fringe, Undiscovered Countries, TransVisions, Salonathon, Williamsburg Circus, and NOLA’s Hell Yes Fest; highlights include the award-winning variety hour MARYSHELLEYSHOW (co-created with Bee Begley); the short film HIRE ME SPIELBERG; and the ongoing solo series COMPANIONABLE SILENCE. J.G. is proud to be an Ensemble Member with American Blues Theater, an Associate Artist with Undiscovered Countries, a peacock with Paonessa Talent Agency, and a paid-up member of Actors’ Equity Association. All love to my family.

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Executive Artistic Director since 2010. In her tenure, she created the nationally-recognized Blue Ink Playwriting Award and new work development program, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the arts education program for Chicago Public Schools serving nearly 4,000 students annually during a traditional school year. She led American Blues through its reorganization in 2009, building the operational budget from zero to $1 million. She secured the company’s first-ever operating reserve, endowment, and permanent home. Whiteside served on numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters and League of Chicago Theatres. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (BS), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). As a producer, she’s received 15 Joseph Jefferson nominations or awards. As an actress, she’s received 5 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations; 2 After Dark Awards; and 1 Broadway World Chicago Award.

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