The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
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.
“This bold, brutal book is the new calligraphy—an exquisite marriage of alphabet and imagery. Each sentence, each scene, and each story breaks down a country, a family, and a father. Then, frame by frame, with artistic vigor and monastic devotion, Thi Bui rebuilds a world in which guilt conquers grief and gratitude becomes not only a guide, but our new Deity. The Best We Could Do teaches us how to say no to fear and yes to truth.”
— Fae Myenne Ng, author of Bone, a PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, Steer Toward Rock, winner of the American Book Award
“Thi Bui’s book took my breath away. In a time of continuing refugee crisis, its message is necessary. The Best We Could Do expands one family’s personal story into a global, historic context, while condensing generations of war in Vietnam to intimate and human proportions. Beautiful and powerful.”
— Craig Thompson, author and illustrator of Blankets and Habibi
Thi Bui’s stark, compelling memoir is about an ordinary family, but her story delivers the painful truth that most Vietnamese of the 20th century know in an utterly personal fashion—that history is found in the marrow of one’s bones, ready to be passed on through blood, through generations, through feelings. A book to break your heart and heal it.
— Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist
“By knowing our parents’ story we come to a better understanding of who we are; by living our own version of their story, that understanding is even deeper and more illuminating. In The Best We Could Do, Thi’s exploration of becoming a mother in the shadow of her own parents’ history is Thi drawing her past to write her future. It’s a story that I—as a child turned parent myself—found emotional, introspective, and a cautionary tale of what we pass to our next generation.”
— GB Tran, author and illustrator of Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey
“With great mastery of writing and drawing, Thi Bui shows the consequences of war lasting from generation to generation. The Best We Could Do honors Vietnam the way Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis honors Iran. And it’s fun to read too.”
— Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace and I Love a Broad Margin to My Life
“The Best We Could Do is a story of massive, sweeping scale told through quiet moments of complex emotion and intimacy. Thi Bui paints the portrait of a single family across three generations, as many continents, and thousands of panels without one false stroke of the brush. Her penetrating examination of family and identity is at once unsentimental and deeply felt, familiar and unlike any other graphic novel you have read. Comics don't get much better than The Best We could Do.”
— Jake Wyatt, author and illustrator of Necropolis and Ms. Marvel
“….her story offers readers a particular insight into the life of a family fleeing violence and fear in a time of political upheaval—a reminder of the micro consequences of macro political actions.”
— Paste Magazine
"Thematically rich and complex, melding together grief and hope, the personal and the political, the familial and the national, The Best We Could Do is an important, wise, and loving book.”
— The Comics Journal