Picked up “My Name is Asher Lev” from the donate pile because I saw it was written by Chaim Potok. I read The Chosen years ago at a Leadership Education mini-conference and was left with a beautiful impression. What was it about? All I remember is Hasidic Jews in New York, a father/son relationship, and learning that some Jews thought (and still believe) a State of Israel was a bad idea. Maybe I’ll read it again.
I wasn’t sure what to pick up off my WAY over-grown TBR shelf next, but I knew I wanted a novel and something meatier than Stephen King this time. I’m glad my hand was drawn to this one.
From the first page of chapter one:
“So strong words are being written and spoken about me, myths are being generated: I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also, I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians, a blasphemous manipulator of modes and forms revered by Gentiles for two thousand years.
Well, I am none of those things. And yet, in all honesty, I confess that my accusers are not altogether wrong: I am indeed, in some way, all of those things.
The fact is that gossip, rumors, mythmaking, and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a casual chain.”
It grabbed me. “Gossip, rumors, mythmaking, and news stories” seem to be all we have these days. And we are all basing our decisions on them. Decisions about what to do with our bodies, our money, who our enemies are, who should be cast out or kept close. This is the thing that makes me the saddest right now. It’s been a downward spiral for several years, starting long BCB (before covid bullshit, still hoping that catches on).
This is why I’ve shunned social media and online news. This is why I read books, the deep ones, the ones that want to show me something, not just entertain me for a few hours. And this one looks like it’s going to be a winner.
Written in 1972. Hasidic Jews, New York, 1950’s, communists, Stalin, Russians…one hundred pages in and I’ve already teared up, gasped in surprise, and had my heart broken. I can’t wait to hear what happens to him as he gets older. Where does his art take him? Is it a gift from the Master of the Universe or the other one?
Have you read My Name is Asher Lev or The Chosen? Want to read it with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments here. Or if you’re shy, email me!
PS It’s still blazing hot out here. We’ve seen far too many 115 degree days this summer. But I when I went to bed last night, it was almost dark. That’s a good sign. The seasons do still change. Fall is coming. I just need to wait it out!
If you’d like to read my final thoughts on this book, pop over to Art: A Personal Expression of Passion