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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

Emily Porter

July 24, 2019

From the mesmerizing illustrations to the heartfelt writing, Thi Bui has created a hard to put down treasure.

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do, is incredibly heartfelt. Not only is her writing poignant, but the imagery on each ink-filled page is intoxicating. 

When Bui becomes a new mother, it sends her into an emotional journey to unfold her encrypted emotions, as a refugee child, toward her own parents. She realizes that the trauma she felt and resented growing up was, in fact, the ghosts of war lingering in her parents’ everyday lives. Being a new parent, Bui is drawn to her mother and father’s past and the choices they made in order to survive and give her and her siblings safer lives. 

This book raises interesting questions in the process: Does trauma linger through generations from being the product of war? Or, do our parents’ pasts affect our present? Bui ponders:

 

Maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past.

 

 

It is a compelling story about family, trauma, war, and being a refugee in America, a story that hits home whether it be through scenes during the Vietnam War or depicting America today. Bui’s ability to move readers to feel so fully her experience, and that of her family, makes this book an important read, especially given what we are dealing with as a country currently. It allows individuals who are not immigrants to see through the eyes of another. For immigrants it is a common story, a story that is shared, that they are not alone in. To all of us, it is a reminder of the human cost of war:

 

Every casualty in war is someone's grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, brother, sister, child, lover.

 

From the mesmerizing illustrations to the heartfelt writing, Thi Bui has created a hard to put down treasure. It shows us the trials of immigration, the loss of one's country to war, and the efforts desperately to keep one's family stable while dealing with the toils of fitting into a foreign land. The Best We Could Do is a lovely ballad to her heritage and her parents, who risked their lives to survive and give their children better lives.

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