Let’s Talk About “The Best We Could Do”

I first heard about Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do from a bus stop kiosk in San Francisco because it was San Francisco’s 2018 reads. I took a picture, but never ended up actually getting a copy of the book to read. This year, The Best We Could Do, is on UCSB’s 2019 reads. My roommate was actually required to read the book for her Writing 2 class and I have a friend who read it for her Asian American Studies class. After my roommate was done reading it, I stole her copy and read it myself, just for fun.

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Image via Immigration Prof Blog

I found the book amazing. It was an illustrated memoir which made it easy and fun to read. It delved into the author’s family background and an attempt to understand why her parents raised her the way they did. It was very heartfelt and provided a lot of cultural and historical background of how her family came to America from Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. And even after they arrived in America, the memories of the past didn’t just disappear. The past continued to haunt the way Bui and her siblings grew up.

Personally, I'm not a Vietnamese-American, but I'm Asian-American and the experiences that Bui describe really hit home. Although the circumstances as to why her parents came to America and why my parents came to America are different, the cultural difference that Bui incorporates into her story was really relatable to me. It made me want to understand my parents and myself better. 

Thi Bui came to UCSB on April 25th this year, and I had the privilege to attend her lecture and meet her. She had an interactive reading of her illustrated memoir which was really fun, as the audience participated. During the book signing, I asked her about how to bridge the gap between the cultural difference between my parents and me, and she said (and I’m paraphrasing) to just do it and go in the deep end.

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Image via IHC

If you have time, I would definitely recommend reading The Best We Could Do.