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My Name Is Asher Lev

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  29,089 Ratings  ·  2,159 Reviews
Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the ...more
Paperback, 369 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by Anchor (first published January 1st 1972)
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Lorne Kirstein Hi Milena. I have the book I grew up looking at that stupid book every day of my life. My mother had it in her bookcase ....read it and left it there…moreHi Milena. I have the book I grew up looking at that stupid book every day of my life. My mother had it in her bookcase ....read it and left it there for the last 50 years so if you want it you'd be doing me a favor. I never had the heart to throw it out but, you showed interest so, its a pleasure to give it to you(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lucy
Jan 29, 2009 Lucy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Annalisa
May 26, 2008 Annalisa rated it it was amazing
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
Chris
Oct 21, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
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 th
...more
Jenny
Nov 30, 2008 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
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
Diana
Apr 04, 2016 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I hated to finish this book, because I loved it so much.

It is the story of a Hasidic Jewish boy who loves to draw and paint and has the ability to become a great artist, but his father hates his obsession with art because he thinks it is from the Other Side and is evil.

I loved how this story drew me into the daily life of this young boy, his family and his struggle to become who he was meant to be. I, too, had a gift for drawing and know how devastating it is to be not only not encouraged, but a
...more
dely
Sep 18, 2015 dely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-usa, library-loan
Questo è un libro sostanzioso, ricco di temi interessanti affrontati con delicatezza. I temi principali sono il rapporto genitori/figli, il crescere in una famiglia religiosa e opprimente, la ricerca della propria identità che non riesce ad emergere perché soffocata dall'ambiente circostante; si parla della lotta interiore nata dal voler perseguire una passione e i sensi di colpa dovuti al ferire le persone che si amano; si parla di arte, di quanto possa essere incontrollabile una passione con l ...more
Mike
Jul 23, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 17, 2011 Doug Cannon rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2010 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing
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
Roger Brunyate
May 31, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, art
The Absence of Italics

I returned to reread this classic after reading Talia Carner's recent novel Jerusalem Maiden, since the protagonists of both are talented artists raised within Orthodox Judaism, struggling to reconcile their art to their faith. To succeed, the writers must convey the nature of both religious belief and artistic inspiration, a challenge that Potok meets brilliantly. Consider one significant example. Both novels are full of Hebrew words—Shabbos, Rosh Hadesh, Krias Shema, Hasi
...more
Roberto
Feb 20, 2016 Roberto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“Si è mai sentito di un grande artista che fosse felice?”

Asher Lev è un bambino che ha un dono prezioso, sa disegnare. Sente il bisogno irresistibile di esprimere le sue emozioni ed i suoi sentimenti attraverso la pittura. Questo sarebbe una cosa pregevole, se non fosse che è ebreo.

Il padre è unimportante rappresentante della comunità dei Chassidim Ladover di Brooklyn ed è molto religioso e rigoroso applicante degli usi, dei costumi e delle tradizioni. E’ un uomo buono ma di vedute ristrette, ve
...more
Reese
Apr 07, 2011 Reese rated it really liked it
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
Kolbie
May 04, 2016 Kolbie rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this book--for my 11th grade English class--I read it in one afternoon, and I can honestly say that it changed my life. The second time around was just as powerful for me.

Like many others have commented, the genius in Chaim Potok's writing is his remarkable ability to drive a book forward with virtually no plot. Asher Lev doesn't do a lot of things aside from paint and worship for years, but the real story is his internal struggle and his battle with his feelings--it's pre
...more
Jane
Aug 26, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
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
Heidi
Jun 14, 2009 Heidi rated it it was amazing
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
Skylar Burris
Apr 30, 2008 Skylar Burris rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaism
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
Brent
Nov 22, 2008 Brent rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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 it was amazing
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
Dajana
Sep 15, 2016 Dajana added it
Iako nije prevedena, napisaću utiske na srpskom, možda se neko odluči da čita. :)
Ovo je vrlo neobična knjiga, posebno jer sam između potrebe da je okarakterišem kao knjigu za mlađi uzrast, recimo oko 14 ili 15 godina (ovo je ipak Bildungsroman) i kao vrlo emotivno delo. Stilski, ona ima svakako brojne mane, od kojih je najupadljivija preterana potreba autora da metafore eksplicira do granice da vam se čini da vas smatra za idiota, a potom i da diskutuje čitavu umetnost prve polovine dvadesetog v
...more
Dakota★Magic in Every Book
Aug 06, 2015 Dakota★Magic in Every Book rated it really liked it
This is a pretty intense novel, dealing with subjects such as conflicting traditions, religion vs art, self-identity, and suffering. It has a slow pace but a lot of depth and emotion that really made me think. A lovely novel, if not complicated and a bit melancholy.
Sally Hirschwek
Jan 07, 2016 Sally Hirschwek rated it it was amazing
This book did not fail all of the praise it has received. Although it took me a little bit to really get into it, once I did, I simply could not put it down. It was powerful and heart wrenching. Asher Lev had been born with a gift of art. It could not be denied. His father disowned him, and his mother was brought grief. He came from a Jewish Orthodox society, where painting was a sin. His passion could not be controlled. Eventually, his great artistic skill led him to the drawing of nudes, and w ...more
Austin
Jul 08, 2013 Austin rated it really liked it
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
Julie
Nov 25, 2008 Julie rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zinta
Jan 05, 2009 Zinta rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Silvia Pompele
Può la crocifissione diventare simbolo e realtà dell'etica della sofferenza?
Si, solo se si pensa all'evento non come morte dolorosa in sè, ma come la morte del Figlio di Dio.
Altrimenti è una morte tragica e dannata, ma come lo sono molte altre e forse anche meno.
Christoffer
Apr 07, 2016 Christoffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I have an answer now when asked what is my favorite book.
Heather
Mar 19, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of a time, a place, a religion, a family, talents, mission, faith, truth, and many struggles. It's the story of a Jewish boy who is a talented artist. He observes the world around and is curious about the world outside. He tries to stay devoted to his faith, but struggles to please his parents and religious leaders while also being true to himself and his gift.

Here are a few interesting quotes from the book:

"'Now, listen to me, Asher. I know you are only a boy, but perh
...more
Jessica Baldwin
Jan 04, 2016 Jessica Baldwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended under "Fear of Confrontation" in The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You. From childhood on, Asher must repeatedly confront his father, his mother, his Hassidic Jewish family and community, and the "Master of the Universe" as he fulfills his artistic destiny. At every turn, he is met with a wide spectrum of negative emotions and very little encouragement from the people he loves most. Despite the temptation to please and honor h ...more
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Asher Lev 1 97 Oct 21, 2008 03:22PM  
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Herman Harold Potok, or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer. He started writing fiction at the age of 16. At age 17 he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Although it wasn't published, he received a n ...more
More about Chaim Potok...

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“Something that is yours forever is never precious” 103 likes
“Art is whether or not there is a scream in him wanting to get out in a special way.” 52 likes
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