‘Brothers Emanuel’ book captures family dynamics

April 8, 2013

Photos courtesy of Ezekiel Emanuel

Dinnertime in the household where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his brothers grew up in the 1960s and 1970s often erupted into a fusillade of insults, political talk, shouts and strong opinions.

Nothing less was expected.

Eldest son Ezekiel Emanuel says people often ask how his parents produced a trio of high-achieving brothers. Zeke, as he’s known, holds an M.D. and Ph.D from Harvard. The noted bioethicist is  vice provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Middle son Rahm, of course, is known to Chicagoans. Ari is a Hollywood agent and the real-life inspiration for the character Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage.”

All three are known for their forceful, mercurial and sometimes obnoxious personalities. Zeke admits just as much in “Brothers Emanuel: A Memoir of an American Family,” his new book that attempts to answer those family question he’s often asked.

The brothers grew up in Chicago and Wilmette. Their pediatrician father was an Israeli immigrant. Their mother was a civil rights activist who often took her boys on the frontlines of protests in Chicago. A tight-knit Jewish family, the Emanuels emphasized social justice and questioning authority.

“Our critics and defenders would agree that Ari, Rahm, and I can be both benevolent and belligerent, sometimes in the same moment, as when my brothers say, ‘I love you, asshole,’ Zeke writes. “But passion. energy, and persistence are the hallmarks of the Emanuel style, and it was these three traits that we all exhibited as we advocated for others and ourselves in medicine, politics, and show business.”

—Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @natalieymoore.