The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui

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The Best We Could Do.
Thi Bui.
Harry N. Abrams.
336 pages.

Trigger warnings: miscarriage, war

About 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. A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, was named a 2018 Caldecott Honor Book. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

“Travis and I moved to California in 2006 near family…for a notion I had in my head of becoming closer to my parents as an adult. I don’t know exactly what it looks like, but I recognize what it is NOT, and now I understand—proximity and closeness are not the same.”

Thi Bui’s illustrated memoir, The Best We Could Do, tells her life story of being a Vietnamese immigrant into the U.S. and becoming a new mother. Her comics are poignant with only watercolors used in her illustrations. The scenes rely mainly on shading and some fine lines to detail the story. The heavy use of black, in the beginning, make everything seem very bleak, but as the story goes on, the orange shades bring intensity and passion to her intimate and honest writing. It’s a biography which deeply examines how our pasts and where we come from feeds into us as we age and experience life. The artwork is simplistic, but the words will grab the reader, leaving them deep in contemplation on the issues Bui sets out to tackle. Bui takes the reader on a devastating hero’s journey that not everyone might be ready to take part in. This is the story of a refugee who has spent too long running and now has taken the time to pause and grace us with her life-long struggles in poignant thought and detail.

PRR Writer, Julia Shelton

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