The Best We Could Do Summary

The Best We Could Do is a graphic memoir by Thi Bui published in 2017. In the book, Bui tells the story of how her family came to the United States from Vietnam.

  • Thi Bui recalls the birth of her son in 2005. She then begins to tell her own parents' stories.
  • Thi's parents grew up in Vietnam. After the war, they fled to the United States with young Thi and her siblings, eventually settling in California.
  • Bui hopes that telling her family's story will help give her young son a chance to be free from the trauma of the past.


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Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 580


The Best We Could Do is a graphic memoir by Vietnamese American cartoonist Thi Bui, published in 2017. The book explores Thi’s experience as a first-time parent, as well as her family’s history in Vietnam and, after the Vietnam War, as immigrants to the US. While working on the book as a graduate student at New York University, Thi visited Vietnam and interviewed her parents, asking to hear stories from their lives. The memoir examines parenthood and family, the long-lasting effects of war on families and children, and the difficulties of immigration, diaspora, displacement, and cultural assimilation.

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Plot Summary

Thi Bui begins her memoir with the birth of her first child, a son, in New York City in 2005. From there, she begins to tell her family’s story, filling in the gaps in her own knowledge and memory and interweaving her family history with the history of Vietnam. Thi learns that her parents, called Ma and Bo, led very different early lives—while Ma grew up in relative wealth and privilege in the southern Vietnamese city of Nha Trang, supported by loving parents and attending French schools, Bo grew up in northern Vietnam, where he was abandoned by an abusive father who joined Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist liberation movement, the Viet Minh. Bo and his grandparents, who raised him after his father’s departure, struggled for survival in the chaotic wake of World War II, when Vietnam was occupied by the French and Japanese. He feared what would happen were a communist regime to take over, witnessed the execution of political prisoners, and at one point, narrowly escaped being executed himself. From his stories, Bui gains a new understanding of her father’s sometimes frightening moods.

Ma and Bo met at a teacher’s college in southern Vietnam and eventually graduated and married. At the time, Vietnam had freed itself from French control, but a new conflict was looming in the form of civil war between North and South Vietnam. In 1955, the war officially...

(The entire section contains 580 words.)

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