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UCSB Reads 2019: The Book

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About the Book

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.

Reviews

"Thi Bui's stark, compelling memoir is about an ordinary family, but her story delivers the painful truth that most Vietnamese of the 20th century know in an utterly personal fashion—that history is found in the marrow of one's bones, ready to be passed on through blood, through generations, through feelings. A book to break your heart and heal it."

–– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist

"Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle. Highly recommended for teens and adults; an excellent choice for book clubs."

–– Library Journal online (starred review)

"One of the most anticipated graphic memoirs of 2017 is debut author Thi Bui's The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir about her family's journey from South Vietnam in the 1970s, her experience of first-time motherhood, and how places really do shape one's identity."

–– Bustle

"The Best We Could Do is a story of massive, sweeping scale told through quiet moments of complex emotion and intimacy. Thi Bui paints the portrait of a single family across three generations, as many continents, and thousands of panels without one false stroke of the brush. Her penetrating examination of family and identity is at once unsentimental and deeply felt, familiar and unlike any other graphic novel you have read. Comics don't get much better than The Best We could Do."

— Jake Wyatt, author and illustrator of Necropolis and Ms. Marvel


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