Reviews

The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui

espiri_reads's review

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5.0

This is again, one of those stories that makes you fall in love with the characters. This time, however, the characters are not fictional, they are Thi Bui and her family, which makes you feel even more connected to the people whose lives you see illustrated in this graphic novel. Multiple tears were shed while reading this story. I ended the book feeling like I just wanted to hold the Bui family close.

This memoir is the story of Thi Bui's family and their escape from Vietnam in the 1970s. It also covers their eventual transition as refugees and immigrants to the US. She traces her story back to her great grandparents in order for the reader to understand the history of Vietnam, which I learned A LOT about through this story. It's also important that she traces it back several generations because in exploring her parent's histories, she understands the weight they carried with them and how that impacted the choices they made as parents.

I learned so much while reading this book. It is not often that the Vietnam story you get in the US is from the point of view of Vietnamese refugees. The mainstream US point of view is of antiwar protesters or the veterans that fought in the war. So I appreciate what this book does for the larger story of the Vietnam War.

And as different as this story is from my family history, I still found myself relating to it a lot as a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants. It is such a remarkable story, and at the same time it is also a representative story of many people who chose to flee Vietnam around the same time. This made me think about my family's history and inspired me to start working on writing down more of my parents' story.

Another deep connection I made with this book is as a mother. I keep trying to find the right words to explain how symbolic it is that Bui starts her family story at her child's birth. It's symbolic in that the birth seems to also give birth to her desire to understand her parents, their choices, and how they related to their children. Bui illustrates both the ancestral strength and the intergenerational trauma that she inherits because she wonders what both mean for her child. I connected to this BIG TIME. And the way she illustrated the physical, emotional, and existential struggle of transitioning into motherhood was so REAL. Like if any expecting first-time mom ever asks about what it's really like, I'm just going to point to the first and last few pages of this graphic novel.

I love the small, but powerful moments she chooses to illustrate that show the connection between Bui and her mother and siblings. Like the drawings of how she and her siblings would cuddle with their mom while watching TV. And I feel like she was very fair in the way she portrayed her parents.

This book gives you permission to have some really nice cries, but you won't feel bad at the end of them. You will feel more grounded and self-aware.

chelseamartinez's review

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4.0

This book is a years-long project by the author that has been revised and transformed from a more scholarly work about her family history. You can feel it... the story is stripped of what I am sure were many more details to tell a story that includes her speculations about how the lives of her parents and older siblings resonate in their current-day adult-to-adult interactions. I'd love to read an update in the future: the author is a new parent at the end of the story, wondering how her experience will shape her parenting.

mogar_pogar's review

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dark emotional reflective sad fast-paced

5.0

anda_popovici's review

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5.0

A wonderful and at times hard to read graphic novel. The narration style reminds me of Maus. The visuals are quite striking, Thi Bui using just a couple of colours in a great way.

I didn't know much about the Vietnam war but thanks to this book I learned how horrible this period was. Definitely worth a read!

ester30's review

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4.0

Beautiful, raw, and enchanting. As someone interested in generational trauma, this was amazing! The back-and-forth method of story-telling was kind of confusing, but I liked that it was a bit messy-it kind of mimicked life in that way. The ending where she believes her son will be trauma-free was interesting, because it shows the optimism that each parent has for their child, the unrealistic hope that their own exorcised demons won't affect their children. Just as her parents probably thought that she was not going to not suffer as much as them, she too believes her trauma is behind her. Overall, this memoir gave me lots to think about, and I definitely will be revisiting!
EJF

selm's review against another edition

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emotional informative reflective sad medium-paced

4.25

that was pretty good and sad story of the family to escape from south viet (don’t really remember sorry kurang familiar sama history negaranya), esp Ma’s sacrifices.. that was hard to imagine but since this is a memoir.. sedih bgt jadi kangen ibu

co_sima's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional inspiring reflective tense fast-paced

4.0

readerrabbit23's review

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4.0

a heavy and moving reflection on the relationship between parents and children, the trauma we inherit, the ghosts that haunt us and the things they transform into, especially for immigrant families.

toloveisdestroy's review

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3.0

A very serious and realistic portrayal of life that will pull at your heart strings and make you ache in ways you never knew were plausible. This is a spectacular story, and it deserves to be stated.

librarianryan's review

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emotional hopeful reflective sad slow-paced

4.0

 
This graphic novel is both heartbreaking and contemplative. Its the story of a modern family both past and present, and the difference in life between two mothers. A turbulent mother daughter relationship is hard enough but add to it immigration, war, poverty, and death and it becomes a tough mountain to climb.  Eventually the other side found. This is a look at a family that most people won’t recognize but some will. The author gives us the true accounts of her, her mom, her dad, brother sisters, and how it correlates to the life that she lives now. This graphic memoir has been chosen as an NEA big read book for this year, and after reading it, I understand why. This isn’t any graphic novel, but an in-depth tale of longing for a place to belong and longing for the family you think you should have. This book both breaks your heart, but helps find a way to mend those pieces as time marches forward.