Memoirs as graphic novels, such as Persepolis, Fun Home, or the March trilogy, is a genre I find fascinating and Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do is definitely in keeping with that trend. This is a book that is beautiful both in story and appearance. Bui’s illustrations are in muted tones of black, white, and clay red, with gorgeous, delicate line work.
Bui’s story is a blend of her life and the history of her parents growing up in Viet Nam and ultimately fleeing it. She ruminates on her family’s lack of roots, which seems best summed up by a scene in which her family has gone back to visit their old home and find the street so changed they can’t identify which house was theirs.
Ultimately, Bui, as a new mother, is contemplating what things are passed from one generation to the next. Her father’s separation from his mother as a young child and his emotional distance from Bui herself during her childhood effect how she will mother her own son. Her mother’s lost children and her long hours at work as the family’s financial provider also play a part in the connection Bui is forging with her baby. She explores what it means to be lonely and the long-term, generational effects of emigration. Her conclusion is, in fact, not conclusive, but a thoughtful look at the life of an immigrant family.