“More than a son’s paean to his father . . . An intergenerational portrait of the quintessential American Jewish family, a rags-to-riches story” (Ethan Michaeli, author of The Defender).
The King of Chicago is the story of a father-son relationship as real and hugely loving as that in Philip Roth’s Patrimony. At its heart is a young son who tries furiously to heal his father from a violent childhood inside a Chicago orphanage. The orphanage, the Marks Nathan Home, still stands today on the West Side of Chicago, marked by a tarnished, barely legible plaque. Once home to fourteen thousand Jewish orphans, it is now just another barely remembered relic of a great city. Using original articles from the orphanage newspaper, Friedman attempts to reconstruct and understand his father’s childhood, a time his dad never discussed.
Expanding its reach, The King of Chicago becomes a multigenerational saga of Jewish life, moving from a mysterious little man named Kasiel, who arrived in the Port of Baltimore in 1903 with two dollars to his name, to the factory floor of a scrap paper business, a golf course where children played without knowing the rules, and a home on the North Shore among fellow immigrants looking for something better for their children.
At its core, this memoir is both a snapshot of immigrant life in Chicago in the early twentieth century and a poignant reminder about the need to never forget who you are and where you come from.
“A love letter to an imperfect father.” —Tony Vanderwarker, author of Writing with the Master