My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Asher Lev is a member of the Ladover Jewish community in Brooklyn. His family has been devoted to their holy man, the Rebbe, for three generations. But Asher has little interest in following his family’s path. He has a gift that his family considers a curse: art. His skill with a pencil, brush, clay is natural. And, his family believes, evil. There have been no successful orthodox Jewish artists. Ever. Art is a selfish hobby, while Judaism is a selfless religion. Can Asher rectify the two parts of his life, or will he have to turn away from one of them forever?
I loved this book despite the slow start. Very deep, intellectual, and thoughtful. I’d recommend anybody looking to delve into the art world (visual, musical, or literary) read Asher Lev’s story. The writing is fabulous, and Asher’s dilemma something real and heartfelt.
My favorite quotes:
“You should make the world pretty, Asher,” my mother whispered, leaning toward me. I could smell her breath. “I don’t like the world, Mama. It’s not pretty. I won’t draw it pretty.”
“Then help me with the brushes,” he said. “A Jew should not only talk, he should also do.”
Sometimes I think the Master of the Universe has another world to take care of, and He neglects this world, God forbid.
To touch a person’s heart, you must see a person’s face. One cannot reach a soul through a telephone.”
“So life would be precious, Asher. Something that is yours forever is never precious.”
I stared at my reflection in the train window. Come, journey with me through the centuries, my eyes said. One learns to walk decades.