My Name Is Asher Lev
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My Name Is Asher Lev

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  23,238 ratings  ·  1,813 reviews
For use in schools and libraries only. The making of a great contemporary painter from the first stirrings of a commanding talent to the triumphant exhibition that wins recognition for his art and marks his final, heart-rending estrangement from the world.
Hardcover
Published March 11th 2003 by Turtleback Books (first published 1972)
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Lucy
Chaim Potok is a brilliant author who refuses to write a page-turning book. I can't tell you how many bad books I have finished hoping for a Potok-esque finish...moving depth that justifies the slow pace of his books.

This was a book I had a hard time finishing. It was too easily put down and, to be truthful, I didn't even like this book until about 3/4 of the way into it. Now, I emphatically say that it is one of the best books I have ever read.

There is so much to say about this book. Throughou...more
Chris
I've heard good things about Potok's "Chosen" and it sounds like that's his book that most people have read. I enjoyed his style here and I suspect I'll pick up The Chosen to read later.

Content/Theme
Before commenting on anything else, I need to comment on the theme and content of the book.

This book is deeply entrenched in the Jewish culture and has many references that are likely very commonplace to those in the Jewish culture, but were very foreign to me. I got the general meaning of most thi...more
Annalisa
Powerful. This is the story of a Hasidic Jew who is a gifted painter, a talent not approved of among orthodox Jews. His life becomes a struggle between his father--who tries to stir him away from the arts to more traditionally accepted hobbies all the while trying to understand him--and his need to draw to express himself. I could sympathize with all the characters in the book: his father for trying to hold onto his religious convictions without dominance but love, his mother for trying to love...more
Jenny
A tragically gripping, page turning work of total genius. I hate to even review it because it was that good and maybe just five stars would be better than me blubbering about it... I was completely engrossed and almost read 3/4ths of it one night, but stopped abruptly to have the novel follow me around the house and in my bag for another week because I didn't want to be through with it. I came back to it and finished it in one sitting. Some books change your life, some books are your life. Diffe...more
Mike
Let me preface this review by stating that I have little basis for identifying with many characters in the book: I am not Jewish, was not raised in a religious community, did not see my community nearly exterminated during the worst conflict in the 20th century, and couldn't draw a properly proportioned stick figure to save my life. In spite of all of these obstacles I found this book both challenging and emotionally compelling.

This book raises many questions: what does it mean to be an artist?...more
Doug Cannon
Over the years, my Dad and I would occasionally have a conversation about this book. It would invariably go something like this:

My dad asks, "You have never read My Name is Asher Lev?"
and I would reply, "No, I haven't"
"You are so lucky! Now you still have the joy of looking forward to reading the book."
"We've had this conversation before, Dad."
"Then why haven't you read it yet?"
"Because as soon as I read it, you won't say I'm so lucky anymore."

I think the risk was worth it to be "less lucky" an...more
Doug Bradshaw
This book reached me on many levels and gave me a lot to think about. Here are a few of them:

1. As parents, we push our children to do well in school, some of us want our kids to excel in sports, others want their kids to be leaders and to have a lot of friends and to be popular. Here we have a prodigy son who at a young age is a Mozart of art, and yet because of his parent's religious background and beliefs, he is made to believe his gift is bad and useless and that he should conform to their n...more
Skylar Burris
My Name is Asher Lev is about, at its heart, "the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other's throats." It depicts that unspeakable mystery in all its painful humanity, and as a consequence the book is moving and disturbing. Asher Lev is a Hasidic Jew who has a gift for painting, a "foolishness" his father cannot understand. Potok could have turned Asher's father into a villain; instead he makes him human and sympathetic....more
Reese
You're a Hasidic Jew. Is that your identity? You're an artist, a "prodigy." Is that your identity? You're being pulled by opposing forces, urges, needs: You're Chaim Potok's Asher Lev; you're also Rivkeh Lev, Asher's mother. Or perhaps you're a nameless illustration of the human condition. If, however, your name is Asher Lev, then, unlike ordinary dual creatures, you come to realize that "paint" begins with pain and ends with the letter that looks like a cross. And the pain that is yours is not...more
Jane
Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon.

Asher Lev is born into a strictly orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn in the 1950s. His powerful gifts as an artist become apparent when he is a small boy, and he soon learns that his artistic vision is at odds with a worldview which fears and despises art and puts duty to the family and community as the highest calling.

This novel is sufficiently deep that I could spend a long time discussing its themes (sacrifice and atonement being two of the...more
Beth
PREFACE: I was believed I was first introduced to Chiam Potok my first year of college. I never had to read the The Promise of The Chosen in high school. However after starting on my Potok journey, I realized that the first works I read of Potok's were The History the Jews. His biographical, geographical, historical account of the Jewish race and through travel through time. I read this book before going to Isreal.

My all time favorite Potok book is My Name is Asher Lev, this book began my journe...more
Jeana
Nov 17, 2009 Jeana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeana by: Annalisa
Shelves: book-club-books
"A gift," is what Jacob Kahn told Asher Florence, Italy was. I thought this book was a gift too.

I really can't say exactly why I liked this book so much but I was completely absorbed in it. First off, I found it interesting to see how a child handles his artistic "gift" when his family and others around him tell him it's foolishness. I found the family dynamic heart-breaking and real. I found the end when Asher had to choose between being true to himself/his art and his religion and what his fa...more
Brent
This is a book I picked up in Marlborough, NH, at a little used bookstore, also while on my New England vacation. I'd heard many people say how much they loved this book, so when I found it waiting for me on a step stool, I figured I'd take it with me.
I guess it was a coincidence that "Any Bitter Thing" had so many Catholic themes while "My Name is Asher Lev" portrays the life of a Hasidic Jew who loves to paint. So, with that little sidenote, let me tell you what I thought of the book.
I have to...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Appeal: I cannot find the words
to explain the appeal of this book.
I find it terribly ironic that I
finished it today, on Easter, the
holiest day of the year for me as
a fervent Christian.
Comments: This book is buzzing around in my
head; it feels too fresh for me to
write any clear thoughts about
why it was so powerful. All I
can say is to read this book
for yourself. But be careful if
you do; it is not a book to be
read lightly.
Austin
I learned from this book about art, about religion, about mothers, and about artists. Pure art is a form of the most honest expression about the world and its meanings. Religion is a means of bringing balance to a world full of pain and terror. Both art and religion express their own plays of forms for the pain, but they are different realms of meaning that can be difficult to bridge, given that dogmatic understandings of universal duty are a simple way for one to make sense of his actions and p...more
Heidi
Books like this are wasted on the young. I’m so glad I was a lazy middle school student and didn’t read it because I would have missed most of the meaning and then passed over it now.

Though it started slow for me, sputtering out of the gate with 3 stars, it soon picked up speed and crossed the finish line with 5 stars - not because the story was racing, but because my mind was. You will see religiously devout parents through the eyes of a child; you will see the Hasidic Jewish world through the...more
Julie
My book club book. It's the story of Ascher Lev, an observant Jew living in Brooklyn. He’s an artist from his earliest days, a prodigy, but as his talent grows, so does his estrangement with this father and his community.

This book made me feel sad from early on, because I could tell it wasn’t going to end up all rosy. And, as I predicted, Ascher ends up in exile from his family and neighborhood. Granted, it’s to go back to Paris, to further his art studies, and he leaves an acclaimed artist, bu...more
Zinta
Every one of us has something holding us back to our past, to our roots. Whatever that might be (family; traditions, some of which have perhaps lost relevence; religious constraints; the pacing of our daily lives; unsupportive mates and colleagues; or a myriad of other possible constraints), it is for each of us a life struggle to free ourselves of whatever keeps us from fully developing our authentic selves.

This is the story told in "My Name is Asher Lev." A Hasidic Jewish boy is born into a f...more
Michele
I know this book gets rave reviews that it probably well deserves, but there are some things that I have a hard time overlooking. First I should say that I really liked The Chosen. For me the most irritating thing is the short, repetative sentences that describe either conversations or actions on Asher's part. I know they were written for a certain purpose, but it is still hard for me to like it or to like Asher. And it's frustrating that he won't communicate well. Is that an artist thing? and t...more
Bre Cregor
As an artistic person ( and this adjective includes a wide variety of creative endeavors, not simply painting on canvas), I have often struggled with my belief that art should uplift and even exhalt mankind; and yet, in contrast, I also have felt it is necessary, for the progression of individuals and humanity, for even the darkest of human emotions and actions to be expressed through artistic mediums.
God is truth, and His creations encompass truth in its entirety; not exclusively those truths...more
Kelly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
I wasn't sure how I felt about this book until about 3/4 of the way through it. That's not to say I was having trouble reading it. It took me 3 days to finish it, which is fast for me right now as I've got two little kids running around. But, the flow of the story was so rambling (not the sentences. They're short and clipped), so ethereal, so stream of consciousness sometimes, that I had trouble focusing on what was happening.

Then, it finally clicked into place - it was such an amazingly well d...more
Arwen56
“Il mio nome è Asher Lev” è un romanzo riuscitissimo e potente, a suo modo. Dico “a suo modo”, perché, in effetti, dopo Shakespeare e le tragedie greche, non è che sia facilissimo dire qualcosa di originale. Quel che c’era da raccontare dal punto di vista della “sostanza” è stato raccontato, ormai. Non è che la gamma delle “passioni” degli uomini sia poi tanto estesa. Tendiamo ad essere un tantino monotoni e ripetitivi, diciamocelo. Ma originale può essere il punto di vista e il modo di narrare,...more
Polly
This is really an excellent book for showing a boy's struggle to be true to himself, his talents, and his religion despite his parent's opposition. This is the book I think of whenever I read that someone has written "the great Mormon novel." So far, the books I have heard of with that label are all about someone having an epiphany and leaving the church. In my view, a great Mormon novel would be one in which the main character has convincing struggles and doubts, but finds a satisfactory balanc...more
Nibra Tee
His mentor tells him it's a gift, his father thinks it's foolishness. It's not foolishness, Asher replies. It's evil, his father insists. And one day he will hurt people with it. Justify the pain it will cause, his mentor counters, by being great. And if he climbs a few rungs higher? Does he hurt them more? I'm trying to understand you, his father pleads.

This book is heartbreak in so many levels.
Lora
What I love about Potok is how his characters deal with the challenge of synthesizing value systems that seem to oppose each other. Rather than undermining his core beliefs, the conflicts Asher Lev faces ultimately strengthen his commitment to his faith. Although not everyone in his community can see it, Asher Lev's artistic journey is as essential to him as his Jewish identity.
Jona Cannon
I'm pretty sure that if I experienced emotions like good artists do, that I would have liked this book much more. It was a good story and I really liked the writing style, but it didn't really speak to me like it apparently did many others.

**Spoiler Alert**

I found myself identifying with Ashers father more than I did with Asher. I appreciated that Asher was devoted to his religious beliefs to the point that if non-kosher food was served, he would go hungry rather than defile himself. But then wh...more
Terry
Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors. "My Name is Asher Lev" is my favorite Potok novel.

The novel explores many aspects of life but at the heart it is concerned with conflict - between father and son, husband and wife, religion and secularism, orthodoxy and freedom, tradition and art. Asher Lev struggles to understand his gift and passion for art and to reconcile it with the traditions and faith of his family. His father, devout and dedicated, tries to suppress his son's frivolous passion....more
Oleg Kagan
Asher Lev's love for drawing in the face of his disapproving father is the conflict of My Name is Asher Lev. On it's own, this Künstlerroman is well-known for its powerful depiction of the tension between a boy's determination to become an artist and a conservative Hasidic community that both confines and sustains him. Within the context of Chaim Potok's other novels, My Name is Asher Lev loses some of its power. Commonalities between this books and, for example, Davita's Harp are many: In both...more
Janessa
A tormented but beautiful story about a gifted artist, Asher Lev, who finds himself caught between his religious upbringing and beliefs and the truth and devotion required by his art. This struggle is deepened and complicated by his father's inability to understand Asher's gift, and his mother's need to love and support both Asher and his father, Aryeh. Both Asher and Aryeh are men of vision. For Aryeh that means spreading and establishing Hasidic Judaism throughout post-war Europe and Russia, n...more
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Asher Lev 1 88 Oct 21, 2008 03:22PM  
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  • The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
  • Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History
  • Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends
  • Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories
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  • The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch
  • Jayber Crow
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
  • Crossing to Safety
  • Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods
  • A Legacy
  • Inside, Outside
  • Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures
  • The Romance Reader
7385
American author and rabbi. Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland.

His parents, Benjamin Max (d. 1958) and Mollie (Friedman) Potok (d. 1985), gave him a Hebrew name, Chaim Tzvi. His Orthodox education taught him Talmud as well as secular studies.

He decided to become a writer as a teenager, after reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
More about Chaim Potok...
The Chosen The Promise The Gift of Asher Lev Davita's Harp In the Beginning

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“Something that is yours forever is never precious” 77 likes
“Seeds must be sown everywhere. Only some will bear fruit. But there would not be the fruit from the few had the many not been sown” 32 likes
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