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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

4.0 3
by Thi Bui
 

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**ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection**
**Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 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

Overview


**ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection**
**Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 12/05/2016
Tracing her family’s journey to the United States and their sometimes-uneasy adaptation to American life, Bui’s magnificent memoir is not unique in its overall shape, but its details are: a bit of blood sausage in a time of famine, a chilly apartment, a father’s sandals contrasted with his son’s professional shoes. The story opens with the birth of Bui’s son in New York City, and then goes back to Vietnam to trace the many births and stillbirths of her parents, and their eventual boat journey to the U.S. In excavating her family’s trauma through these brief, luminous glimpses, Bui transmutes the base metal of war and struggle into gold. She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it: the misery of the Vietnam War, the alien land of America, and the liminal space she occupies, as the child with so much on her shoulders. In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty. (Mar.)
Bustle

"One of the most anticipated graphic memoirs of 2017 is debut author Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir about her family’s journey from South Vietnam in the 1970s, her experience of first-time motherhood, and how places really do shape one’s identity."
The Huffington Post

"Bonus: The entire memoir is illustrated."
author of The Fifth Book of Peace and I Love a Broad Margin to My Life - Maxine Hong Kingston

“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.”
author and illustrator of Unterzakhn - Leela Corman

The Best We Could Do lands with the force of a blow and the strength of a mountain. Thi Bui offers an all-too-rarely-seen Vietnamese perspective on our war there, and a view of Vietnamese history that makes this book essential reading for anyone who seeks to go deep into this subject. At once intimate and sweeping in its portrayal of human experience, The Best We Could Do made me weep.”
author and illustrator of Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey - GB Tran

“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.”
author of Diamond Head: A Novel - Cecily Wong

“Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do is a nuanced, multilayered tribute to a family that has lost as much as it has gained. Bui interprets her family’s demons with generosity and compassion, and she is keen to understand how the roots of trauma and conflict can grow decades later, thousands of miles away. Infused with Vietnam’s tumultuous history, Bui’s memoir reflects her family’s experience against the larger context of war, poverty, and dislocation, and then pulls back, showing how these heavy matters affect life at home in the quieter days that follow. The Best We Could Do is a beautiful, affecting union of memoir and illustration.”
author and illustrator of Necropolis and Ms. Marvel - Jake Wyatt

“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.”
starred review Booklist

"In creatively telling a complicated story with the kind of feeling words alone rarely relay, The Best We Could Do does the very best that comics can do. This is a necessary, ever-timely story to share far and wide.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Timely and poignant…”
Vulture

“When Bui began work on The Best We Could Do in 2005, she couldn’t have predicted the significance it would hold when it was released in 2017, but now that it’s here, it feels like one of the first great works of socially relevant comics art of the Trump era…Bui presents that saga in a way that is narratively intricate, intellectually fastidious, and visually stunning.“
The Boston Globe

Bui worked on the book for years, but it’s arrival feels urgent amid today’s travel bans and growing refugee crisis.”
Teen Vogue

“Gorgeously illustrated… “
PEN America

“It’s a deeply personal tale, but universal in so many ways, filled with familiar struggles and joys that so many of us will relate to. You need to read this book.”
starred review Shelf Awareness

“A moving, visually stimulating account of the author's personal story and an insightful look at the refugee experience, juxtaposed against Vietnam's turbulent history. “
The San Francisco Chronicle

“Like Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece, “Maus,” Bui’s memoir elicits complex emotions from understated pen-and-ink drawings.”
Refinery29

“…a nuanced and heartfelt immigrant tale, brought to true life through beautiful and brilliant illustration. On top of that, it's an especially poignant read from the vantage point of 2017.”
The Mary Sue

“The story, both deeply personal and historically illuminating, will devastate and inspire you on many levels.”
Bookpage

“Bui's minimalist approach ensures readers can't gloss over the harsh realities of her family's immigrant experience, but it also forces us to recognize the universal struggles and triumphs that all families experience. Fans of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis will not want to miss this incredibly relevant work.”
Boing Boing

“This book is beautiful. It is personally meditative while also deeply informative, telling the history that lives in one family’s bones while spanning multiple nations, borders, and generations.”
Hyperallergic

“…a crucial exploration of the refugee experience in this era of expressly unconstitutional efforts to halt immigration into the United States.”
Paste Magazine

“….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.”
TruthDig

"It has all the hallmarks of a book that will be regarded as a pioneer in both form and content.”
The Coveteur

"In this graphic novel, every image looks like the characters are being gently blown away, or else in perfect stillness… It’s a touching memoir.”
The Comics Bulletin

“The Best We Could Do is a moving memoir and corrective to Trump-era xenophobia.”
Gambit Weekly

“…haunting writing and breathtaking art…”
The Comics Journal

"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.”
Hyphen Magazine

"The Best We Could Do is a deeply American story, tapping into the national myth, however illusory, of freedom in new beginnings.”
Pulitzer Prize winning novelist - Viet Thanh Nguyen

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.
ICv2

“…the storytelling of Thi Bui is very strong.”
Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen

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.
author and illustrator of Unterzakhn Leela Corman

The Best We Could Do lands with the force of a blow and the strength of a mountain. Thi Bui offers an all-too-rarely-seen Vietnamese perspective on our war there, and a view of Vietnamese history that makes this book essential reading for anyone who seeks to go deep into this subject. At once intimate and sweeping in its portrayal of human experience, The Best We Could Do made me weep.”
The Asian American Literary Review, curator for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center - Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis

“The Best We Could Do burns back the dead skin of public War memory. Underneath is the raw flesh of another kind of war story—of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brutally intimate and intimately brutal. This book is a must-read.”
author and illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestseller Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir - Tom Hart

“Devastating and luminous.
author of Bone, a PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, Steer Toward Rock, winner of the American Book Award - Fae Myenne Ng

“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.”
author and illustrator of Blankets and Habibi Craig Thompson

“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.”
author and illustrator of Vietnamerica: A Fami GB Tran

“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.”
author of Diamond Head: A Novel Cecily Wong

“Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do is a nuanced, multilayered tribute to a family that has lost as much as it has gained. Bui interprets her family’s demons with generosity and compassion, and she is keen to understand how the roots of trauma and conflict can grow decades later, thousands of miles away. Infused with Vietnam’s tumultuous history, Bui’s memoir reflects her family’s experience against the larger context of war, poverty, and dislocation, and then pulls back, showing how these heavy matters affect life at home in the quieter days that follow. The Best We Could Do is a beautiful, affecting union of memoir and illustration.”
author and illustrator of Necropolis and Ms. Marve Jake Wyatt

“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.”
author of The Fifth Book of Peace and I Love a Bro Maxine Hong Kingston

“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.”
author and illustrator of Blankets and Habibi - Craig Thompson

“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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419718779
Publisher:
ABRAMS
Publication date:
03/07/2017
Edition description:
Illustrate
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
64,089
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.40(d)
Lexile:
GN600L (what's this?)

Meet the Author


Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
KarenfromDothan 11 days ago
A graphic memoir of the Bui family written and illustrated by their youngest daughter, Thi. The Bui family immigrated to the U.S. as the Vietnam War ended in the 1970s. It chronicles the family’s struggle to make a new life for themselves in a country far different from the one they left behind. It’s a story of one family’s overcoming adversity, their resilience and their ultimate survival. It’s also about the author’s personal journey to understand her parents and what made them who they are and in the process bring herself closer to them. Her beautiful drawings really add to the story and convey a depth of emotion.
rokinrev 25 days ago
[I am choosing to review this graphic novel voluntarily after I received it from Abrams books as part of a giveaway] "The struggle to bring life into this world is rewarded by [the cry of a baby]. It is a single minded effort uncluttered and clear in it's objective. What follows afterward- that is, the rest of the child's life - is another story." Thi Bui and her family were refugees from Vietnam at the end of the War. Through her drawings and writing which she began in order to understand her roots in the story of her parents, the heartbreaking descriptions of fleeing her homeland and the hope for a better life in a country who was in part the reason she had to flee to be able to have a chance of any kind. This is the story of Bui and her family and how they diligently survived in Vietnam and escaped to America. It is seen and told through the eyes of a woman with a son of her own who began to understand just what survival and thriving is to a refugee family cobbled together and torn apart by conflicts both public and private over life spans is a labyrinth of war and peace, money and poverty, mercy and anger. Sparse prose and beautiful drawn graphics haunt the reader as the story unfolds and reflects courage and despair. The cover calls this book "an illustrated memoir" that her publisher presents in lovely format. This is a much different kind of graphic memory that will stay with you in its simplicity and haunt you with its beauty. 4 stars
Sandy5 4 months ago
The novel begins with a detail account of Thi Bui giving birth to her son. Her mother arrives to help her through this process yet, she stands outside the door, unable to do anything to help her. This mother who had high expectations when she arrived and had given birth to children herself, stands outside the door, her face distorted. I enjoyed the way Thi Bui describes her labor and the events that followed. I knew by reading these opening pages that her memoir would be filled with detailed events that shaped her life and the emotions would run high. The novel shifted around in different time periods but the chapter headings kept me focused. As Thi Bui thinks about her own family she reflects back to what her own parent’s experienced when they were younger. I learned about Thi Bui family and quite an extensive amount of historical information about Vietnam while reading this novel. I also learned how Thi Bui family managed during the war activities during this time period. It was quite the story, and I am sure my face reflected those in the novel as they faced more hardships than joy as endurance seemed to be the key during many of their struggles. I liked the fact that she sees her families struggles as a part of who she is. As she now struggles as a new parent, it is just the beginning and a part of life. I also enjoyed how smoothly the illustrations took me through her life. For a memoir, I thought this was a terrific way of making a tribute to her own life and to the others in it. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations, they were wonderful and I liked that there was not a lot of color used. It’s a great graphic novel and one you should check out.