An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

The Best We Could Do

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir - Thi Bui

I read this for one of my summer classes. We had to read and annotate 10 comics/graphic novels. Here's the annotation I wrote for that class:


The Best We Could Do tells the story of Thi Bui’s family from their lives in Vietnam to their time as refugees in Malaysia to their resettling in the United States all framed by the story of Bui’s journey into motherhood. The result is both a specific, personal reflection of the author’s own family and a larger, more universal search for identity and belonging.


Bui utilizes one single color throughout the entire story. The red she chooses moves between seeming harsh, angry, and dangerous to soft, warm and welcoming. Sometimes it floods the entire page while at other times it is very contained, highlighting one specific moment, one person, one element on the page or in the panel.


In the book, Bui searches for the truth of her parents and their lives and only has their stories to guide her. There are many interesting uses of panels and the gutter throughout the book. The more innovative pages seem to be emphasizing the fact that these are impressions rather than literal interpretations of the past. An inanimate hand reaches across the gutter ominously. A boat drifts into a panel from an undefined place. Family memories are layered over images of war, unrest, and change occurring in Vietnam.


Even though The Best We Could Do was only published last year (2017), I can see it securing a spot in the graphic novel canon and being read for many years to come.