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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was a heart-breaking story in every way. Most understand that someone who is becoming a first time and new mother could result with reflection on one’s own upbringing including parenting style and family dynamics. This true story is not just about becoming a better parent than one’s parent but it’s about tragedy and helplessness in one’s own life without any control to be the parent one would like to be and, to raise a family in one’s own homeland. There was no chance of that happening because of war, fear and desperation. Although there are some sweet childhood moments in the story, I found it hard to read and felt depressed for this young mother.
This is the first graphic novel I have ever read. It is possible to read this book quickly, as there are relatively few words among all the pictures, but the story is very powerful. It is also timely, as there are so many refugees in the world today, fleeing war, violence, climate change disaster, etc.
I wept reading this book, as this family suffered so much hardship over the years. The children were able to achieve success in this country, but they were not unscathed.
As I read this book, I thought about what an easy life I have had by comparison. Those of us who were born into middle class (or better) lives in the US truly won the birth lottery. Whatever troubles we have are miniscule compared to those of most people in the world.
The Best We Could Do gives us insights into the refugee/immigrant experience. As we listen to the anti-immigrant vitriol spewing from the mouths of some of our leaders (most of which is outright lies), we are lucky to have books like these to tell the stories of people coming to the US from other lands. Immigrants are NOT criminals and terrorists; they are people just like us. They are NOT coming here because they want to take US jobs. Only unspeakable horrors would drive people to risk their lives and the lives of their children to leave home and all that is familiar, to come to a new place where people are hostile to them.
A story that sheds some light on the long-lasting impacts of being a refugee, an immigrant and having lived through years of war. A must-read as our empathy for refugees is very low these days
Such an important and empathetic graphic memoir about Thi Bui's journey to understand her Vietnamese family and their immigration to the United States from South Vietnam.
Such an amazing story, thought-provoking about the refugee story and life as a new mother building a new family.
Such an amazing story, thought-provoking about the refugee story and life as a new mother building a new family.
A great read that entices you with the characters. This is the first graphic novel that I've finished reading and have a deep interest in it.
A moving graphic novel memoir about one family's immigration journey from war-torn Vietnam to the United States and the daughter's subsequent life adjusting to first-time motherhood years later. The art is captivating and the story just draws you in and doesn't let go.
As Thi Bui has her first son, she reflects on what her parents sacrificed to give her and her siblings a better life. A story about family and bonds that can never be broken. Bui gives an honest portayal of what it was like living in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and having to seek refuge in America. Beautifully illustrated and told.
A stunning debut. While Thi Bui tells her family's story of escaping from Vietnam in the 1970's and making their way to the United States, she also explores motherhood, forgiveness, and understanding a parent's struggles from an adult's eye. One of my favorite quotes is: "But maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past." A beautiful biography. Perfect for book clubs and older students. Highly recommend.
As a memoir, this starts out fairly typical. A daughter, now a mother, wondering who her parents were. But then it becomes a true story of her parents, and a history lesson on the tragedies and events of the Vietnam War. I ended up liking this graphic novel way more than expected. I was fascinated with the struggle and will to survive that some families and some individuals are forced to endure, and the true horror of war and the innocent (or not so innocent) victims. The art is so somber yet can be beautiful in places. By the end of the story, I felt like I knew her family and I knew the places they'd lived. It's a sorrowful but hopeful story. It's also timely--I couldn't help but relate their story to today's headlines of Syria and the refugee crisis. Different times but stories that are so sadly similar.
I really can't see how anyone can give this less than 5 stars. This book really opened my eyes even further to the struggles of Vietnamese refugees, and the graphic novel format is an excellent one to express it.
A simple yet heartfelt illustrated memoir about a young Vietnamese family immigrating from a war torn country to the United States. The story is interesting and touching; the art is also very stylish and impressive.
Thi Bui's debut graphic novel, "The Best We Could Do," surpasses other well-told refugees' tales by way of her honest exploration of how we are not only shaped by the way our parents raise us but also by the people, places, and events that shaped our parents themselves. On the cusp of creating her own family with the birth of her son, Bui turns her wondering gaze towards the life-defining decisions her parents made while growing in, and eventually escaping from, the chaos of the long years of war in their home country, Viet Nam.
Bui's strength is not only her insight into how her parents' youth shaped her experience as their daughter, but also in the delicacy of her writing and the artistry of her illustrations. Her writing includes many subtly delivered insights, such as her realization that the fear she felt of her father as a child "was only the long shadow of his own" childhood fears as he experienced death, destruction, and abandonment. Her illustrations effectively mix simple line drawings and delicate portraits, washed in earthy tones that may harken back to the red clay soil of her home.
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy graphic novels, history, family memoirs focusing on parent-child relationships, coming of age stories and immigrant tales.