"A poignant memoir about dealing with the past and searching for a better future.  The Best We Could Do is also a timely story about families and refugees in America.  It explores immigration and all the feelings and issues surrounding this situation, and the effects it has on people who are displaced.  Although a personal story, it also addresses various and relatable universal struggles, including:  family sacrifices, difficulties in communication between parents and children, personal failings, and the importance of identity.  This creative graphic novel is tender and inspiring, and provides insight into an all too rarely described experience and history."

 - Saryl. T. Radwin, M.A.

Program and Event Management Specialist, UCLA Residential Life

"Thi Bui, in a search for her own voice, her own place, and her own identity, pursues the truth about her family history and Vietnamese roots. She listens to the stories as much as the silence--and discovers the impact of trauma on her forebears, who then help her imagine a new future. This richly illustrated book challenges stereotypes, humanizes historical events, inspires compassion between generations, and invites us to listen deeply to each other's stories. It is a heartfelt and heartbreaking, beautiful book. "

-Lauri Mattenson

Lecturer, UCLA Writing Programs

"The Best We Could Do is a story that every student, faculty and staff member can relate to. Thi Bui illustrates the struggles as well as the joys of navigating a mixed identity today."

- Samantha Libraty

4th year, UCLA International Development Studies Major

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.


In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life author Thi Bui’s search for a better future while longing for a simpler past. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story explores the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family.

Alternating between the present, Bui’s own childhood in California, and the lives of her parents amid the chaos of the Vietnam War, Bui explores the saga of her country while trying to understand the history of her parents and grandparents. Their struggles and pain reflect the turmoil within a country that whiplashed from French Colonial rule to Communism to civil war in one generation. As the child of a country and a war she can’t remember, Bui poignantly illustrates, with dreamlike artwork, her journey of understanding and provides inspiration to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. 

S  Summary provided with permission from Abrams ComicArts

In preparation for Thi Bui's campus visit on January 30th and January 31st, Bui has delivered a special message to UCLA


Praise & Reviews

The Best We Could Do has enjoyed a warm reception, including by Bill Gates, who named it among his top 5 books of 2017. UCLA's Amerasia Journal will also highlight the book by making it the focus of their Winter special issue.


Reviews from the 2017-18 UCLA 

Common Book Selection Committee


Thi Bui's The Best We Could Do

  • Family
  • Parenthood
  • Intergenerational conflict
  • Displacement
  • Immigration
  • Identity (Class, race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status)
  • Personal struggles & journeys
  • Sense of belonging
  • The meaning of home
  • The Vietnam War
  • Trauma, PTSD, Depression (Mental Health)
  • The refugee experience
  • Nationalism
  • The importance of education