This is my first book recommendation post! I am excited to share with you one of the best graphic memoirs I have ever read. My first official book recommendation is the debut graphic memoir The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui.
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.
The first thing that stood out for me was the beautifully, simplistic illustrations. I was easily drawn in to the images and felt like I was flipping through actual snapshots. I appreciated the depictions of historical subject matter such as communism and war between North and South Vietnam. They were easy to follow and provided a powerful method of understanding the issues at hand. I loved that Bui included drawings of her family from her childhood because it demonstrated the importance of drawing in coping with her difficult childhood.
The common thread of this memoir is how the experiences of our families have the ability to impact future generations. This memoir is clearly a tool in negotiating the past, present and future for the author. Not only is it a history lesson of Vietnam but it is an example of how difficult the life of an immigrant is for not just one generation but for those to come. It is an example of how proximity does not equal closeness; that the struggle to understand the haunting pasts of others is not meant to be easy.
I have always loved learning about others. However, learning about the lives of others from those who choose to tell their own story is especially poignant. These are their memories. They have chosen each word for a reason. A graphic memoir is especially powerful. Particularly in The Best We Could Do as Bui is the illustrator as well. There is no doubt that this was a difficult yet cathartic creation process. We readers are so fortunate that she has shared the story of her family in such an impactful form of storytelling.