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The Best We Could Do (The Best We Could Do)

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  5,277 Ratings  ·  956 Reviews
An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui.
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 do
ebook, Review Copy, 330 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Abrams
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Marcus Not at all. It has moments of sadness but overall it's about the triumph of the human spirit. Ultimately uplifting.
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Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is featured on Throwback Thursday @

I picked this up from Netgalley as soon as I learned about it. I love reading graphic novels and this one piqued my interest after reading the blurb. I had already read A Different Pond with my kids and loved that one, so I had a good feeling about The Best We Could Do.

This is an extremely moving graphic novel about a family’s immigration from Vietnam and how they do the best they can to make a living in a new
The Best We Could Do brings to life author Thi Bui’s search for a better future while longing for a simpler past. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story explores the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family.

Alternating between the present, Bui's own childhood in California, and the lives of her parents amid the chaos of the Vietnam War, Bui explores the saga of her country while trying to understand the history of her parents and gr
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I still remember how I felt the first time I read the graphic memoir "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant", by Roz Chast. I wanted the world to read it...
I laughed. I cried. I laughed and cried at the same time! And by the way.... I felt it should be required reading for anyone who had aging parents! Both my parents were dead - and I still got value 'as' a mother: not wanting to leave my own daughters a mess to deal with after I die.
Roz Chast's graphic memoir TRANSFORMED the word GRAPH
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
Empathetic, honest, and emotional. A gorgeously illustrated memoir of a woman who looks to the past to understand her parents and her complicated relationship with them. In 1978, Thi Bui's parents fled South Vietnam with three young children and one on the way. The Best We Could Do tells the story of them growing up in Vietnam, raising a family in the midst of the Vietnam War, their harrowing nighttime escape by boat, and the difficulties of starting a new life in the United States. The tale be
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartfelt, engaging, comprehensive illustrated memoir, The Best We Could Do really blew me away. I do not gravitate towards graphic novels as a format, but this book completely hooked me from the opening panels as Thi Bui embarks on her own journey of motherhood for the first time, and seeks to close the gap between herself and her parents by better understanding where she comes from and their own stories. She does incredible amounts of research and is able to distill years of history and emot ...more
David Schaafsma
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gn-memoir, vietnam
I read this graphic memoir in one sitting and found it affecting as a story and lovely to look at. It's a story that is familiar, the desire to understand the past of one's parents, and in becoming a parent, finding yourself in a better place to do so. Her parents divorced, but to help her understand the past, and tell the tale, they came together to help her. She did lots of secondary research in addition to talking with her parents.

And since it is about Vietnamese parents who became refugees e
3.5 stars

I really liked the art and I definitely learned a lot about Vietnam's history.

However it's a memoir. And, unfortunately, like with many memoirs, I often felt the author didn't dig deep enough or was reluctant to tell the whole truth (probably to, understandably, not hurt her parents). For all author's anger against her parents, she never quite articulated why she felt it. The narrative also was often unclear about certain events, especially how for all the talk about poverty, somehow he
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. The Best We Could Do begins with Bui's foray into motherhood and how it reminds her of her mother's story and sacrifices. To cultivate a deeper comprehension of her family's past, she interviews her parents, travels back to Vietnam, and spends tons of time learning about the history of the war and her family's place within it. ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great autobiography graphic novel. The author talked about her parents leaving war-torn Vietnam and moving to the USA. This also shared the daughter's story of growing up an immigrant and very poor.

This is definitely worth a read!
Nelson Zagalo
Passada toda uma pré-adolescência a ver filmes americanos sobre o Vietname, que mostravam os bons americanos e as suas façanhas e todo o seu altruísmo heróico contra os maus, os "vietcongues", sempre prontos a matar e a fazer explodir os indefesos e os soldados (“The Deer Hunter”, (1978), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Missing in Action” (1984), “Rambo” (1985), “Platoon” (1986), “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987), “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), “Casualties of War” (1989)), a que se juntaram algumas tentativa ...more
Thi Bui fled Vietnam in 1978 with her mother, father and 3 siblings when she was a young girl. Now an adult with a child of her own, she is worried she will pass on to her son the pain and sadness of her parents from a lifetime of war, abandonment, poverty and dislocation. This is a poignant and powerful story of one family’s immigration told beautifully through Thi’s illustrations. Having just written “beautifully”, that word does not sum up the brilliant energy that emanates from the page of t ...more
The Best We Could Do features artwork so beautiful and story so intimate that I couldn't put it down. Thi Bui takes the reader along for a journey as she explores her family history and her relationships with her parents. The story is told in a relatable manner, it's poignant and it's easy to connect to (at least it was to me).
The story revolves around a Vietnamese family that escapes the war and immigrates to the US in the 70s. It depicts the struggles of being forced out of your own country, t
I read this book in one sitting (breathless, emotionally turned inside-out) and you should too.

Bui's family is different from mine in many ways, but I still experienced a sense of recognition on every page, as if her family life had been stitched together from patchwork pieces of mine, or vice versa. It's Thi Bui's truth, but I think it's a lot of other people's truth, too -- I won't use the word "universal," which I mistrust, but it has a sense of scope, of historical breadth. It's an intimate
This ranks up with the graphic bio Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood which sets a high bar for this genre.

Americans to not always recognize that each immigrant has a back story. Many are survival stories like this one.

This is a quick powerful read.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prachtige en aangrijpende familiekroniek over een Vietnamese bootvluchtelinge.
Sterke grafiek, originele vertelstijl.
This was beautiful, empathetic, harrowing at times, and incredibly brave. Thi Bui, in recounting the lives of her parents and their parents throughout Vietnam's tumultuous history, presents a fresh, new voice in the realm of Vietnamese-American non-fiction.

Everyone should read this.
Hameed Younis
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
كتاب رائع، صادق، سحري
والجميل فيه انه كوميك، والاجمل من كل ما سبق انه سيرة ذاتية
يحكي الكتاب قصة ثلاثة اجيال من فيتنام عاشروا الحروب منذ الحرب العالمية الثانية مروراً بالثورة الشيوعية وتقسيم فيتنام حتى حرب امريكا
خمس نجمات دون تردد
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This graphic novel-memoir was so honestly written, I could feel the author herself growing and learning in the process of both the story and the storytelling. It was very interesting to learn more about Vietnam history, especially from a specific and personal point of view, and compare it to what I have learnt about it in school and in the media. There were lots of intense emotions behind the story too, mostly coming from Thi herself, that I couldn’t really understand, but perhaps Thi doesn’t ei ...more
Stewart Tame
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely story of a Vietnamese family. Through their story, we also get a look at the history of the country up until shortly after the fall of Saigon when they fled the country to the US. Through her parents' stories, Bui comes to understand her own childhood growing up in America better. The artwork is lush and moving--it's hard to believe that this is her first graphic novel. Autobiography and biography proliferate on the GN shelves, but this one stands out as one of the better ones. It's wel ...more
deeply touching and complex
Review first published on my blog The Fictional Reader

When I saw this on Netgalley, I immediately wanted it. Not only do I want to read more graphic novels, I also want to read more non-fiction and diverse (+own voices) books. This graphic memoir combines all three into one spectacular book.

I think this is the type of (non fiction) book I would recommend to everyone. Here’s why:

- Because this is an illustrated memoir, it is very easy to read. It doesn’t feel like you’re trying to make your way
Lianne - Literary Diversions
I absolutely fell in love with this graphic memoir. I cannot believe how masterfully simple and yet emotionally complex Thi Bui's writing is; she employs such an intense economy of language that I would never have suspected she would be able to convey so tangled an identity in so few words. She lays bare the very knotted thoughts of a young Vietnamese girl who never felt proud, never felt good enough for either of her cultures and who struggled to attain the wholeness that American society claim ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The best we could do" is a graphic memoir about a family forced to leave their country in order to get a better life, searching for a better future. It's a graphic novel that talks about the war in Vietnam but, most of all, this is a story about family. It talks about the difficulties they face before and after the displacement: all the sacrifices; the struggle of finding their own identity, or understanding the meaning of home; all the things parents teach to their children, even if they don't ...more
This is author Thi Bui's personal story, tracing her and her family's flight from Vietnam. The graphic novel format was a non-standard medium, and the pictures are well done. This is a story of Vietnam and its unvarnished history during a tumultuous period as well as the story of her family from Vietnam and herself. There is a balance of happiness and misery. Personally, I did not find the birth of her child to be an effective event tying together the family's issues, and at times, found the nar ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely stunning...
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not just a book, this is an experience.

This graphic memoir details the author's family's life, both in Vietnam itself as well as their eventual escape to the US during the war.

It is a very personal piece of work, that delves not only in her family history but also explains how that history has shaped her entire family, particularly her parents, in the present.

It deals with the topic of immigration, of how growing up in two cultures with very different values can cause a rift between gene
THE BEST WE COULD DO really shines when it explores the author's parents' experiences on either side of the wealth divide in their home country of Vietnam and their harrowing journeys in a war-torn country. In my opinion, the rapid shifts between time and place could be jarring.

The story is bookended by the author's own (awful-sounding) experience of labor and birth, and as is so often the case, just made me cringe and feel thankful I opted out of all of that mess--and had the option to, unlike
Elizabeth A
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

At what point in our lives do we realize that our parents are people in their own rights that have nothing to do with us? In this graphic memoir, the author fully appreciates this when she gives birth to her son.

This is the story of her parents lives in Vietnam before they met each other, their early years together, and the family's escape from Vietnam in the 1970s, finally ending up in America. While it's technically true that refugees are immigrants, the specifics can be sobering. I
Julie Ehlers
The Best We Could Do is a wonderful illustrated memoir that covers the author's experience as an immigrant to the U.S. from Vietnam as well as her parents' experiences of war while they were still living in Vietnam. I read this back in March 2017 and wish I had reviewed it sooner so I could be more detailed here, but I learned a lot from this book and thought it was beautiful and affecting. I read an ARC of this and some of the art was unfinished. I shouldn't even be mentioning this, but I thoug ...more
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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. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.
More about Thi Bui...

Other Books in the Series

The Best We Could Do (4 books)
  • Labor (The Best We Could Do, #1)
  • Backwards (The Best We Could Do, #2)
  • Terror (The Best We Could Do, #3)

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“Má leaves me but I'm not alone, and a terrifying thought creeps into my head. Family is now something I have created and not just something I was born into.” 2 likes
“Proximity and closeness are not the same.” 2 likes
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