The Best We Could Do

The Best We Could Do

An Illustrated Memoir

Book - 2017
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"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."--From publisher.
Publisher: New York : Abrams ComicArts, ©2017.
ISBN: 9781419718779
1419718770
Characteristics: 327 pages :,chiefly color illustrations ;,24 cm.

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Hillsboro_RobP Jun 09, 2020

A troubling memoir that is literally a grown daughter asking her parents for their story and getting an emotional landslide. None of the images are fully detailed, but they stay with you just the same. The same for the stories. Bui hints that either she or her parents left out some of the brutal details, and that's saying something.
I'd also like to give a nod to the length-long and detailed enough to draw you in, but not drawn out enough to bury the reader in a depressing morose forever. Probably a good thing.

I would have liked to see more of the parents' modern life now, but the story hardly suffers for this omission. A powerful read for grown children and aging parents alike, and strong proof of the legitimacy of non-fiction graphic novels.

A touching story of a family persisting through war, displacement, and adaptation to life in a foreign land. A quick read worth rereading. Compare with other Vietnamese-American of the same generation such as Ocean Vuong.

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MEILEEANDERSON
Mar 11, 2020

This book was written in 2018 and it feels exceedingly relevant in 2020. I don't normally read graphic novels. I thought the illustrations and how this emotional story was written was beautiful, powerful, and important. I was so engrossed in the story I read it cover to cover in one sitting. It made me think, made me cry and is quickly becoming one of my favorite books that I read in the Extreme Reading Challenge for 2020.

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clancy_pants
Feb 17, 2020

This is a fantastic graphic memoir written by a Vietnamese woman about her family's experiences before, during, and after the war. I learned so much about Vietnam and the history after World War II and leading up to the war there. The illustrations are easy to follow, which isn't always the case for me with graphic novels.

r
ryner
Jan 13, 2020

A touching and painfully honest account of Thi Bui's family's journey, from her parents' survival in war-ravaged Vietnam to forging new lives for themselves as immigrants to the United States. It demonstrates starkly how the war and other traumatic experiences have serious, lasting and often invisible effects on survivors.

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GreenDog2006
Dec 29, 2019

I wanted to love this book - I like memoirs in graphic format, it got tons of rave reviews and awards, and I'm very interested in learning more about the post-WWII history of Vietnam from the Vietnamese perspective. Unfortunately, I found the book disorganized - there was so much jumping around between characters and time periods, I had a lot of trouble figuring out whose story I was reading (author, sister, mother, father, grandparents on both sides) and when and where it was happening (Saigon? The North? Cambodia? The US?) that I'm left with some vivid images but not the understanding I was hoping for. I wish the author had maybe changed colors or something to indicate separate people, or time periods, or locations.

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Anuschka
Oct 01, 2019

This book resonated with me enormously. I too am an immigrant, though not from a country with the traumatic history of Vietnam. But Thi Bui's musings about dysfunctional family relationships, and thoughts about being a link in the chain from the past to the future, had me in tears on several occasions. I will add I have never before been keen on any graphic novel - this book, the combination of illustrations, writing & the weight of the stories, is exceptionally powerful. Highly recommended.

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ncs1961
Aug 01, 2019

I keep thinking how difficult the conversations must've been - painful memories, family "secrets", things "best left to the past". The author has dug deep & gotten to know her family; I appreciate that she shared them with us - to educate, foster empathy, and maybe just to share.

DBRL_IdaF Jul 02, 2019

The birth of Thi Bui's child triggered a strong desire to learn and share more of her family history. She illustrates how each of her parents grew up and how they met in Vietnam, including a bit of background history of the country itself. They started a family there before fleeing as refugees when Thi was a very small child, and her mother was 8 months pregnant.

We see them adapting, and sometimes failing to adapt, to life in the United States, and the evolution of family dynamics over the years. The author, now a mother herself, comes to realize how both her parents' and her own early trauma have informed her life, even as she comes to an understanding of what little control adults sometimes have over their own circumstances. She comes to see her parents as human beings. It's a story both unique and universal.

The drawings and text perfectly complement each other to evoke the feeling of each event.

c
clearyp
May 22, 2019

Covers important information everyone should know, and it's good that people in San Francisco will read this if they don't know anything about the Vietnam war and the experiences of South Vietnamese who had to escape and come to the US.
Also, the graphic format makes it a quick read.
But several sections are pretty confusing, making the order of events and who specific people are hard to follow.
For those who are interested in this fascinating human story, about people who are among us every day here in our city, there are books (and films) which give a far more vivid picture and better understanding not only of the South Vietnamese but of the North Vietnamese, many of whom were also just ordinary people caught up in a terrible war not of their own making.
Note: I am just a European American myself but I have traveled to Vietnam, both North and South (as was) and have spoken to Vietnamese who were so-called "Boat People" and read these books and watched the films.

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SakuraRose
Nov 15, 2018

"However much my body wanted to rest, a force pulled me onto my feet with clear and simple directive KEEP HIM ALIVE"

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SakuraRose
Nov 15, 2018

"What has worried me since having my own child was whether I would pass along some gene for sorrow or unintentionally inflict damage I could never undo. But when I look at my son, now ten years old, I don't see war and loss or Travis and me. I see a new life bound with mine quite by coincidence and I think maybe he can be free"

JCLCherylMY May 19, 2018

"That being my father's child, I, too, was a product of war ... and being my mother's child, I could never measure up to her. But maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past. Nothing that happened makes me special. But my life is a gift that is too great -- a debt I can never repay." pg. 325.

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MelissaBee
Jan 31, 2018

MelissaBee thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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