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My Name Is Asher Lev

(Asher Lev #1)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  36,921 ratings  ·  2,791 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 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 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 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)
Sarah The c-h of Chaim is pronounced with a guttural Hebrew chet. Chaim is two syllables, like Chai (rhymes with "hi")-im. I believe Potok is pronounced like Puh-tok.

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Jim Fonseca
The book is famous in part for its opening lines:

“My name is Asher Lev, the Asher Lev, about whom you have read in newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of the Brooklyn Crucifixion.”


A Jewish boy, only child to parents belonging to a strict Hasidic orthodox sect, is born with a gift for painting. (The sect is called Ladover in the book but wiki says it is the Lubavitch sect of Crown Heights, Brooklyn in w
Oct 18, 2007 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
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The World in One’s Hands

Sitra Achra, literally The Other Side in Aramaic, is the kabbalistic domain of evil. It contains what is false and impure, the most important component of which is the idea that evil is contained in the Master of the Universe. This idea is not only an impiety, it is also the source of countless other horrors that prevent human beings from appreciating their own reality. The struggle against the Sitra Achra is the central theme of My Name Is Asher Lev, established at the o
Apr 04, 2016 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 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 actively
Roger Brunyate
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
Diane Barnes
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have no words. Truly. Tina, thank you for the gift of this recommendation. I would never have read this book on my own, and I will never forget it.
Oct 24, 2007 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
Nov 17, 2008 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
Aug 27, 2008 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.

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
Jerry Pogan
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without question one of the finest pieces of literature I've ever read. Incredibly powerful. It is the story of a young prodigy artist who had, in my opinion, the great misfortune to be born into a very ultra orthodox Jewish family (but actually, I feel that way about any religions). He is driven, almost helplessly, to draw and paint against his fathers wishes who considers his efforts to come from the "other side". Definitely one of those books written so well that you hate to see it finally co ...more
May 14, 2014 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?
Trevor Wiltzen
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book made me cry. I read it during a difficult moment in my life after a friend who recommended it had passed away and it really resonated.

It’s a beautiful book about a boy wanting to be an artist in the face of others discouraging his passion as a waste of time. It’s about family expectations placed on a child to conform. It’s about coming of age and finding yourself disappointing those who love you for wanting to be different. It’s about the mix of loneliness and opportunities that can re
Jun 13, 2009 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
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english
Interesting and well written fictional biography. The main character is born into the fictional "Ladover" Jewish movement. It is fairly obvious though that "Ladover" stands for the Chabad Orthodox Hasidic movement, today one of the largest Hasidic movements in the world. The main topic is the difficulty of realizing his dream to become an artist painter, without dropping his religious convictions. It is a "feel good" story that manages to avoid becoming too sentimental, and provides interesting ...more
Josh Caporale
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Chaim Potok's writing is quite remarkable! Being a rabbi, Potok's works would explore the lives of Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish subjects and their struggles, but often, these struggles took place internally or within their religious community as opposed to taking place in their exterior world. My Name Is Asher Lev is a prime example of the central character's very own struggle. Within a religion that is grounded, is filled with rules, and requires a lot from its followers, Asher sees a d
Doug Bradshaw
Jan 16, 2010 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
Doug Cannon
Oct 11, 2011 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
Nov 14, 2010 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
Nov 22, 2008 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
Eric Boot
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition



I knew you didn't expect me to ever say this (didn't expect it myself) but this is the first school book I absolutely LOVED. Like, loved-adored-wanttomarry. I gave it 5 stars at first, then decided to lower that to 4.5 stars because I had some minor (really minor) issues with it.

I literally expected this to be pure crap, the worst smelly dung so to call it (most schoolbooks kind of are, especially the books our English teachers give us) (except this year, apparently we have better b
Aug 17, 2012 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
I. Merey
'I had once thought that there was power in a drawing, that the lines and shapes came through my hand through the Master of the Universe, that a drawing could better the world...'

I read this book first almost ten years ago. It shook my world. I reread it for the first time since then, and was ecstatic to see it was every bit, no even more poignant, as I remembered.

One thing that had not aged well for me: the concept of 'whoring' or being a 'whore' as the ultimate disgrace as an artist and a per
May 25, 2009 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
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
May 04, 2016 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
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.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book was so good I am speechless.

Asher, his Hasidic Jewish family and life, his art, his youth, his sadness.

The characters, the pacing.

I thought it was a perfect book.

I know I read this in Jr. High or High School, and I know it meant nothing to me then. It's amazing how one can read and comprehend the words, and regurgitate ideas to pass a test - but not understand any of it. Re-reading it as an adult who has lived life, raised children, studied art - it's amazing to feel it instead
This book. I don't have the words. This is a book I will ALWAYS carry within me. I finished it yesterday and now there is a huge emptiness in me, because I'm no longer in Asher's world. ...more
K.J. Ramsey
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book broke my heart.

And in the crevices, courage flowed.
Skylar Burris
Apr 15, 2008 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
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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

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