The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui // Graphic Novels Like This Are the Best!

Saturday, 1 October 2016
The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
Publication: March 7, 2017, by Abrams ComicArts
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

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 documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.
In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

My Thoughts:

Occasionally, I enjoy reading graphic novels and comics just because of the format. Why not choose to read a supposed "gorgeous, moving memoir" that's a comic, which will help one boost their Goodreads reading challenge? Why not read a beautiful comic story filled with gorgeous art that will make you swoon and not be able to sleep at night, because, in addition to words that stunned you, there are astonishing drawings included? Why not read a book that you will finish fairly quickly? There are so many positive things I see about reading a comic book—and this isn't your typical Archie or Looney Tunes story. Instead, Thi Bui, the author of The Best We Could Do, stuns us readers with a true story of her childhood, and the lives of her parents when they decided that they would leave their hard lives in Vietnam and move to America during the Vietnam War. We learn about things that our history teachers may have not told us otherwise, secretive things right from the perspective of someone who has been through it all, and someone who has researched like crazy to put this story and her drawings together. 

Throughout her memoir, I learned that Thi Bui was on a mission: to find out the truth behind her culture and family. Some people simply do not care or have an interest in their family's heritage and what their home countries really stand/stood for. Although Bui was a child when she was in Vietnam, barely remembering anything, she went back, for the sake of readers and herself, going to her parents, who, afterwards, have built a better relationship with her, asking for answers about the past that is forbidden to mention. 

Bui's artwork is unstoppably beautiful. When I say beautiful, I seriously mean beautiful, not in a light way whatsoever. It makes her story come more alive, allowing readers to get a real feel for how the people she loves look like, and how Vietnam looked like, from her perspective, because I simply believe that everyone has a different outlook on what a place really looks like from their own eyes. I appreciated Bui's, because honestly? It hurts to look at how much people suffered in that country in the past, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to visit the country and learn about their history otherwise. Bui did that marvellously in a three-hundred paged memoir that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, I enjoy leaving the young-adult genre and head out to explore books in a more realistic way. In adult fiction/non-fiction, I find that there are so many more opportunities of novels explored that the possibilities are simply endless and no one will ever be able to explore every single novel that they would like to explore and read. I really enjoyed taking a break from life/YA to read this memoir. It's something new, heartbreaking but lovely to read about because we barely get to from the perspective of a survivor or someone who has looked for a better future in a place that promised that. We see Bui's family's struggles, even their struggles in America, whether it was getting a job, staying away from illnesses that they never knew they were prone to catch, or being able to have enough food on the table. Bui illustrates the fact that us humans never stop struggling, but that we could minimize the struggle if we look up at the sky and be grateful. 

I cannot, in any way, summarize Thi Bui's story. That's absolute blindness from my side if I chose to do that for my fellow reviewers/readers. That's Thi's job to do, and you will simply adore reading this story of hers, and now I have decided that I just want to find out more about Vietnam, its struggles with communism, and discover more stories from people who just want their struggles to be shared, but not to be felt sorry for, but to teach others about their histories, to give them information and to have them feel. 

Once I began reading, Bui's images honestly captured me—I was thrown into the past, in the last century where the world was hit with the most violence ever in history, and I had tears in my eyes and in my heart. Inside, I was crying hysterically, but outside, I felt strong, because I just wanted to keep reading and not be disturbed by my excessive crying and feels. Sometimes, I must admit, crying is not the way to feel a book—reading it and adoring it is, instead.

The Best We Could Do is a stunning, truly impressive story written about a stunning family who I would love to meet and just have a chat about history with. Thi Bui is an amazing artist and writer, who, during the period of time I read every page, made me feel as someone more important than just a reader of her upcoming debut memoir. Her story is one in a million, although thousands and millions of citizens of her nation, Vietnam, encountered some similar events as her family, the Buis, had. On release day, March 7, 2017, take a visit to your local bookstore and support this electrifying story. 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some other comic memoirs/comic debuts that really moved you? What are some other amazing stories about the Vietnam War?

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