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

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir Cover Image
By Thi Bui
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About the Author


Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and legal studies and at one point wanted to be a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. She lives in Berkeley with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

Praise For…


**STARRED REVIEW**

"Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle. Highly recommended for teens and adults; an excellent choice for book clubs."


**STARRED REVIEW**

"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.”


**STARRED REVIEW**

"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… In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty."


**STARRED REVIEW**

“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. “


"A powerful and intimate look at the modern immigrant experience in America."


“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

“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

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

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.”

— Leela Corman

“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

“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.”

— Cecily Wong

“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

“Devastating and luminous.

— Tom Hart

“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

“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.”

— Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis

“…a cinematic epic that poignantly tracks several generations through immigration and emotional dislocation. At its best, this memoir feels not just created but also deeply lived.”

— Michael Cavna

"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."


"Bonus: The entire memoir is illustrated."


“Timely and poignant…”


“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.“


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


“Gorgeously illustrated… “ 


“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.”


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


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


“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.”


“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.”


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


“Thi Bui’s debut graphic novel — a memoir about her family’s immigration from Vietnam to the United States during the Vietnam War — had me weeping openly on the New York City subway."


“Following in the footsteps of landmark graphic memoirs by Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast, this powerful and essential book tells the story of the author’s family’s journey from Vietnam to the United States.“


“….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.”


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


"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.”


“Beautiful in both form and content...”


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


 “…the storytelling of Thi Bui is very strong.”


“…haunting writing and breathtaking art…” 


"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 Best We Could Do is a deeply American story, tapping into the national myth, however illusory, of freedom in new beginnings.”


Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781419718779
ISBN-10: 1419718770
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Language: English