The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui is an emotional story. It is hard to digest all that is presented. On the surface is a story of being an immigrant, but also a child who remembers little of the journey that made her and her family immigrants. It is a graphic novel that is about becoming an adult who finally learns about her past, the past of her family (as individuals (her parents) and as a family unit). And finally, she learns of her present and possible future.
It is the history of Vietnam, its people and even America. It is the story of immigrants, how our parents might love us, but cannot always show it, how their fears, shortcomings and anger can unconsciously shape us a people. There is all of that and more. This is a story that needs to be told. It shows a not so pretty life, but the life that Thi Bui was given. She did what she could do with it. I would enjoy learning about her siblings. The two older girls had to deal with their mother’s biases of what a “good girl should do” and what a “good daughter” should do. As well as maybe a little envy on her part as the girls were able to live a life, she probably wanted but decided against because she did what she thought she “should” do. And the brother is the youngest after four girls (two of whom never made it past infancy). But this is the story of Thi Bui on the eve of the birth of her own child, and her flashbacks, memories and research to find out who she was.
This was one of last holiday’s book exchange books. I am glad I waited until now to read it. It comes on the heels of some powerful books that I did not necessarily like but am glad I was able to read. I think that I would not have appreciated it as much had I read it earlier this year. This is not a graphic novel for the casual reader, but one that is for the reader looking for something a little different, is looking for a story about people and life, for those who are looking to learn about a world they know little about and for those who maybe have shared a similar story.
Illustrator of the book by Bao Phi A Different Pond.