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UCSB Reads 2019

January 2019

To the UCSB and Santa Barbara Communities:

The UC Santa Barbara Library and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor are pleased to announce the selection of the UCSB Reads 2019 book: The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui.

For over ten years, since the program’s start in 2007, UCSB Reads has brought the campus and Santa Barbara communities together to read a common book that explores important issues of our time. An advisory committee made up of faculty, staff, students, and community representatives selected The Best We Could Do for this year’s book, citing its creative and intimate portrayal of struggles of identity, family relations, immigration, and displacement.

The Best We Could Do is a memoir written in the form of a comic book, in the tradition of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Thi Bui chronicles generations of her family history in Vietnam, including her birth during the final months of the Vietnam War and her parents’ escape to, and early years in, the United States. The story is rendered in flashbacks from Bui’s current life as a new mother in California. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen has described The Best We Could Do as a “compelling memoir” that will “break your heart and heal it.”

A Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator, Bui teaches in the MFA in Comics Program at the California College of the Arts. The Best We Could Do was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle and Eisner awards, and was selected for many “Best of 2017” book lists. Bui is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about how Asian American Pacific Islanders are impacted by detention and deportation.

During the winter and spring quarters, faculty and students will read The Best We Could Do in classes, and the UCSB Library will sponsor panel discussions, film screenings, exhibitions, and other events to explore the book’s themes. On April 25, 2019, we will welcome Thi Bui for a free lecture in UCSB’s Campbell Hall, to which you are all invited.

We are grateful for the generous support of our many sponsors. For details about events, sponsors, and more, go to

Thank you for reading, teaching, and learning along with us. #UCSBReads19

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