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"The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir" by Thi Bui

Updated: Jan 30, 2020


PUBLISHER: Harry N. Abrams

PUBLISHED DATE: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1419718779

PAGES: 336

This is an incredible debut from teacher, writer, illustrator- Thi Bui. I read this with my heart wide open, and Bui dumped all of the emotions inside of it. The artwork is heartbreaking, haunting, and mesmerizing, but the story...the story will break your heart over and over again. This is one of my favorite reads of the year so far, and already, I can't wait for Bui's next work. I want to read everything she writes, I want to see everything she draws.

The Best We Could Do, is Bui sharing the story of her complex family. She opens with her journey to motherhood, her relationship with her own mother, and how becoming a mother compelled her to further research her family history. As Bui unearths the story of her parents, she also gives a vivid portrayal of living conditions in French colonized Vietnam and her parents' dangerous journey from Vietnam to seeking asylum in the United States. Bui, one of 5 children describes her early childhood with depth and sadness - recounting her father as a formidable figure. She describes her parents struggle navigating growing children with their budding independence in a new country.

Bui's family's journey from Vietnam is particularly powerful. Through images and strong storytelling, she shares the story of her 8th month pregnant mother, young sibling, and Bui herself is also a toddler, cross the sea by boat to get to America.I will save all of the most striking details from this review. The reader deserves to discover some of the most shocking moments of the story.

I took this memoir in slowly. I hung onto the words and images. I reread passages. I put the book down and pondered. This story is extensively researched, visually stunning, and an instant classic. This book deserves to be savored. It deserves all the awards.

Recommendation: Required. This is a beautiful memoir that should be read and distributed widely.

Audience: Marketed to adults, but it could definitely be read by teens. I'd certainly have enjoyed this.

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