The Best We Could Do is Thi Bui’s graphic memoir. Thi was born in Vietnam three months before the Vietnam War reached what we consider to be the end of the war. She came to America with her family in 1978. Bui’s memoir spans multiple generations.
In learning of her mother’s and father’s pasts, we learn the history of their parents. We see the struggles and pains of two people from very different walks of life trying to live during a time of war and chaos. We see glimpses of the agony everyone in the middle of the Vietnam War faced. Those who were not directly involved on either side but were caught in the middle of larger powers at war. This memoir more closely details the lives of her parents leading up to them arriving in America and making their life there.
I was unsure if this memoir would focus largely on the experience of being a Vietnamese immigrant in America. There were parts that showed how it was for Bui’s parents in a country where tensions were still high after the Vietnam War, where discrimination largely due to that was overt, and where degrees were not recognized and people who had spent their lives working and creating careers for themselves were not qualified for most work and had to hurdle multiple challenges to learn a language and complete education all over again if they wanted to provide a better life for their children.
What Bui so beautifully captures in this memoir is the why behind how her parents were in raising her. Although Bui was born in Vietnam she was young when her family arrived in America. So I think her experience is one that many first generation Vietnamese-American people of my generation can understand and sympathize with. The wanting to know why their parents are the way they are but unable to ask because many have parents, like Bui’s mother, who reluctantly share their stories and don’t allow their children that glimpse that could help them better understand. In the panel which was most poignant to me, Bui draws her father as he looks over her work that would become The Best We Could Do. He says “You know how it was for me. And why later I wouldn’t be… normal.”