The Best We Could Do - an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui


Themes I felt: parenting, motherhood, fatherhood, being a child, the immigrant experience, empathy, compassion

Time it took me to read: 24 hours, 3 sittings

Age recommendation: 6th grade and up, adults, parents, educators, a wonderful book club book

Resources I found: There's a neat teacher's guide and pronunciation guide. Plus: Thi Bui illustrated the picture book A Different Pond which was awarded a Caldecott Honor this year!

Book info: learn about the author and purchase the book (Abrams ComicArts 2017)


What did I expect from the stunning cover of this beautiful graphic novel? I expected the poetic history this book delivered. I expected the incredible color palette and stunning depiction of a family's growth. But the biggest surprise is that after reading, I want to gift this book to every parent I know.

Thi Bui's incredibly honest story offers a beautiful gift to its readers: empathy for your own parents and trust in yourself as one.

One of my favorite quotes from this beautiful memoir is Bui's confession that, "having a child taught me certainly, that I am not the center of the universe. But being a child, even a grown-up one, seems to me to be a lifetime pass for selfishness."

As a person who works with children and families but doesn't have children of my own, I find it fascinating to observe parent-child relationships. And naturally I've begun observing my own thoughts on how I'd like to raise a child someday. With all of this comes a staggering emotion: fear. Fear of messing up or not having enough money. Fear of not giving your child the best "opportunities" (ie schools and childcare and books and music and snacks and ALL OF IT). 

Amidst the turmoil of the author's family story, I found the narrative to be incredibly peace-giving. I know you will too.