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The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

(The Best We Could Do)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  15,393 ratings  ·  2,441 reviews
Now in paperback, revised and expanded to include an illustrated conversation between Thi Bui and Viet Thanh Nguyen, and an illustrated timeline.

The Best We Could Do, the debut graphic novel memoir by Thi Bui, is an intimate look at one family's journey from their war-torn Vietnam to their new lives in America. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects
Paperback, 330 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Harry N. Abrams (first published March 7th 2017)
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J Austill I agree with Pop Culture Nerd, above, but wanted to add to that.

Thi is pronounced like Tee but the 'h' sound is still there adding to the sound. There…more
I agree with Pop Culture Nerd, above, but wanted to add to that.

Thi is pronounced like Tee but the 'h' sound is still there adding to the sound. There is no 'th' sound in Vietnamese. So it is somewhere between the English words tee and he.

Bui is easier, the 'u' in Vietnamese is a short oo sound. So, it is pronounced like buoy. (less)
Marcus Not at all. It has moments of sadness but overall it's about the triumph of the human spirit. Ultimately uplifting.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.38  · 
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 ·  15,393 ratings  ·  2,441 reviews

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Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my Asian-American studies class, and our discussion made me enjoy this book even more! A school book I actually enjoyed? I know! I'm surprised too!
At first, I wasn't too big of a fan of the art style. However, after analyzing why Thi Bui illustrated it the way she did, I think it was perfect for the story. Truthfully, I don't know too much about the Vietnam War except for the few things I remember from 12th grade history class. This was a wonderfully intimate look at her family's
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
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
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
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
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
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 ...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
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was...difficult to read.
Just by the first chapter I knew this was something that would make me uncomfortable, forcing me to confront issues of my own that I glanced over, a nagging thought I couldn't face, because my anxiety wouldn't allow it.

At its heart, it's a story about family. The author explores what it means to be a child of immigrant parents. As our main character recently became a mother, she sets off to understand her parents and fix a relationship that involves unresolved
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
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
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poc-author
Totally cried while reading this. <3 <3

See me talk about this briefly in my May wrap up:
#mystrangereading The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui . Autobiographical/historical/memoir of Bui's own story and the story of her family's voyage out of devastation of the Vietnam War.

The artistry stands on its own as a beautiful, gorgeous, unique story.
The story was heart wrenching, inspiring and poignant.
My only issue came from the stream-of-conscience style of story-telling which just threw me all over the place emotionally and "physically" between the stories.

Overall, this is an
Lisa Vegan
This book is San Francisco’s One City One Book for summer 2018 and I wanted to read it during this period. It’s a fast read and I was able to read it in a couple of days.

It’s a wonderful graphic biography book and interesting history book, and a fabulous book about parents & children and relationships, and trauma.

I’m always in awe of people who can take their pain and experiences and feelings and create writing/art and here there are both. For most of the book I particularly enjoyed the
Mariah Roze
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!
‘The Best We Could Do’ by Thi Bui is my first time to read a graphic novel. It’s a powerful illustrated memoir about a young Vietnamese woman havinng a baby, and recognizing at that moment her own essential link in her family’s story. Bui’s mother flew in from California to be with her daughter while she was in labor, and as Bui expresses so well, “but now that she’s here, she can’t bear to be in the same room.” Accompanying this caption is the picture of her mother standing out in a hallway ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was incredible. The amount of time and work that had to go into its creation alone was fascinating. The tough conversations that took place between a daughter and her parents made me want to cringe and cry.

Thi Bui came to this country under a traumatic veil.Her family is from Vietnam and during the 60's and 70's she shows us how the country went to war with itself and the French influence on their culture. What it was like to grow up in a communist country and then forced to flee to
Reading Women Challenge 2018

5. A graphic novel or memoir

Not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up to read each night before going to sleep. As someone who reads comics and graphic novels for academic research purposes, I thought that not much can surprise me, hence me naively thinking this will be a light read. Yet The Best We Could Do broke my heart in more ways than it mended it. And I am happy with that!

Bui’s visually stunning book is so much more than an immigrant story: her
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done graphic novel by a woman who came to the US with her family as Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. Thi Bui reconstructs her parents' paths from their childhoods to where/who they are now, and muses on how their respective pasts have shaped her own life.

Interesting and beautifully illustrated. I especially loved everything having to do with her father. Just.....for some reason, it did not resonate with me or emotionally engage me. Good, but I would have liked to have had a
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like memoirs and/or graphic books
I loved this graphic memoir. The illustrations are gorgeous, the story grabbed me right away, and the pain of the author and her family’s past was beautifully depicted. They were refugees who moved to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, but that’s not all that the story is about. There is far more to it than that. It’s a story of a family, rather than just the Vietnam War.

This has to be one of the most emotionally-gripping books that I have read in a while.

My favorite quote:
“Proximity and
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” made me cry thinking of my parents, and the endless sacrifices they made as immigrants raising a family in America, and everything that’s going on in our country today, It has to be one of the toughest decisions my parents had to make, leaving everything behind, and moving to an unknown, foreign country. All immigrants and child of immigrants know those “ugly” teenager phases we went through, we were so frustrated with our parents for not being able to speak ...more
Sara➽ Ink Is My Sword
Pre-reading thoughts:

This sounds like an emotional journey, involving Vietnamese history which it's something I really want to know more of.
Iryna *Book and Sword*
3.5/5 stars

Oh, to be disappointed by ones own expectations!

Me not loving this book is absolutely not this book's fault. I just imagined something very different when I picked it up. I wanted more of family's relations, struggles to fit in and adjust, culture shock and such. And in a sense all of that was in the book, but on a very large and diffused scale.

The Best We Could Do is more of a family's saga that spans over generations while telling a very detailed war story. More of a history
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 ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I enjoyed this graphic-memoir of Thi Bui's family - their lives in Vietnam, coming to America, and how becoming a mother has made her think differently about her parents and their decisions. Sometimes the non linear nature made it hard to follow but I usually found my way.
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
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,

the art and the story were BEAUTIFUL
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads, 2018
**I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.**

I can finally check Graphic Novel off my never-have-I-ever-read list. This was a gorgeous read. The artwork was phenomenal and it brought the story to life right before my eyes. What an amazing idea, to document your family history by using two forms of media to maximize on the personal touch. I’m racking my brain trying to think of anything that bothered me about this book and I am coming up empty-handed. I can honestly say, for
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.
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 ...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.

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)
“Maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past.” 19 likes
“Proximity and closeness are not the same.” 17 likes
More quotes…