The Best We Could Do
By Thi Bui
Published by ABRAMS

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“Hand this essential volume to teens who appreciate David Small’s Stitches and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.”  —School Library Journal

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 & Accolades
Tracing her family’s journey to the United States and their sometimes-uneasy adaptation to American life, Bui’s magnificent memoir is not unique in its overall shape, but its details are: a bit of blood sausage in a time of famine, a chilly apartment, a father’s sandals contrasted with his son’s professional shoes. The story opens with the birth of Bui’s son in New York City, and then goes back to Vietnam to trace the many births and stillbirths of her parents, and their eventual boat journey to the U.S. In excavating her family’s trauma through these brief, luminous glimpses, Bui transmutes the base metal of war and struggle into gold. She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it: the misery of the Vietnam War, the alien land of America, and the liminal space she occupies, as the child with so much on her shoulders. In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty.”
Publishers Weekly  (Starred Review)

“Bui meticulously researched her family’s history, discovering how their past affects her. Her family’s story is full of struggle and heartache, and the author/illustrator beautifully details her parents’ escape from Vietnam to the United States in search of a better life. A new mother, Bui returns to the theme of parenthood and family, and teens will recognize her yearning for stability and a happy future as well as her self-doubt and fear of repeating her parents’ mistakes. A compelling narrative and breathtakingly elegant artwork with subtle colors and expressive and finely drawn characters make this title a standout. Curricular tie-ins include immigration policies, refugees, colonization, and the Vietnam WarHand this essential volume to teens who appreciate David Small’s Stitches and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
School Library Journal  (Starred Review)

Groups Represented
Vietnamese American

Bi-racial Identity
Cultural Differences
Cultural Identity
Family Relationships
Migrant Life

United States (New York City)

Engagement Projects & Resources
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