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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (2017)

by Thi Bui

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6543825,468 (4.2)83
National bestseller 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 Selection ALA 2018 Notable Books Selection An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family's journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.   This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family's daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.   At the heart of Bui's story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent--the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.   In what Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls "a book to break your heart and heal it," The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui's journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.… (more)
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» See also 83 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
This book tells the story of a Vietnamese immigrant family that came to the U.S in 1978, but what happened before their emigration at least as important as what has happened since. In the sense it describes the whole immigrant experience, focusing on an individual and family level. It also shows the U.S. war in Vietnam from the perspective of ordinary Vietnamese, not one that we often see. The book is hard to read at times -- the family goes through hell -- but ultimately hopeful. A beautiful book. ( )
  annbury | Sep 22, 2020 |
Gorgeously drawn, this memoir crisscrosses time frames and countries to tell the story of the author's parents lives in Viet Nam. It's a love story conducted during the war, threaded through to her life in the US, trying to get to know them. ( )
  Katester123 | Sep 17, 2020 |
Thi Bui documents the stories of several generations of her family in this graphic-novel memoir. She focuses on the lives of her parents growing up in Vietnam and Cambodia against the backdrop of Vietnamese independence from France and the Vietnam War, exploring their lives, their starting a family, and the family's seeking refuge after the fall of South Vietnam in Indonesia (and then the US) as "boat people." The book also touches on Thi's adult life and her own experiences as a mother.

As far as I can remember, this is the first graphic novel I've ever read, so I don't have a great frame of reference for it. I'm definitely glad that I read it, though, as I definitely found it moving. ( )
  forsanolim | Aug 22, 2020 |
Thi Bui dives into her family history in order to chart a path forward, raising her own son and understanding her parents better.

See also: Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again and Butterfly Yellow (Viet Nam, immigration, middle grade/YA); graphic memoirs: Stitches by David Small, Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley, Good Talk by Mira Jacob, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

Quotes

Family is now something I have created--and not just something I was born into. (21)

I have figured out, more or less, how to raise my little family...but it's being both a parent and a child, without acting like a child, that eludes me. (29)

...proximity and closeness are not the same. (31)

And though my parents took us far away from the site of their grief...certain shadows stretched far, casting a gray stillness over our childhood. (59)

Marriage = Trap
Education = Freedom (150)

Every casualty in war is someone's grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, brother, sister, child, lover. (157)

"It was true that the Viet Minh had won independence by winning the war. But the new society I dreamed of didn't exist. Here there was no freedom of thought, no allowance for individuality." (Thi's father Bo, 168)

A refugee camp is a bottleneck of people seeking a new home. (268)

There were so many things I didn't know about being a parent until I became one. (307)

But maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past. (325) ( )
  JennyArch | Jun 24, 2020 |
Thi Bui has a wonderful family story but I think I would have enjoyed it more as a traditional book. The graphic novel format didn’t work for me in this case. I would have preferred more depth and detail. ( )
  Iudita | Jun 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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Methodist Hospital
November 28, 2005
I'm in labor.
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National bestseller 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 Selection ALA 2018 Notable Books Selection An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family's journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.   This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family's daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.   At the heart of Bui's story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent--the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.   In what Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls "a book to break your heart and heal it," The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui's journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

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