Chaim Potok was born February 17, 1929 in New York City. He grew up in an Orthodox home and had a traditional Yeshiva education. From the age of sixteen, he began writing fiction. He went to an Orthodox College, Yeshiva University. While there, he undertook an intense study of literature. He began to see his literary interest as incompatible with Orthodox Judaism and began to practice a more moderate Conservative Judaism. He graduated college in 1950 and headed to the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative institution. He was ordained as a Rabbi in 1954. Potok earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965.
My Name is Asher Lev deals with the same themes as Potok's The Chosen. Both books concern deeply talented individuals trying to reconcile their talents with the Jewish worlds in which they have been raised. In The Chosen, though, the protagonists talents are academic, not artistic.
Potok's writing, interesting in its own right, is made more fascinating by the close connection it has to his personal history. We cannot help but to see the protagonists of Potok's major works as foils for himself, individuals who, like him, are dealing with the conflicts that a prodigious talent presents to the worlds in which they have been raised.