About "The Best We Could Do"

"The Best We Could Do" by Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do is a haunting memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for a simpler past. Thi Bui documents her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves in America. As the child of a country and a war she can’t remember, Bui’s dreamlike artwork brings to life her journey to understanding her own identity in a way that only comics can.


The Best We Could Do has made a place for itself in the graphic novel canon and has received 5 starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness. It was also nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in the autobiography category and made it onto over thirty “Best of 2017” lists everywhere from the Washington Post to Entertainment Weekly.

About Thi Bui

Thi Bui

Thi Bui was born in Vietnam three months before the end of the Vietnam War, and came to the United States in 1978 as part of the “boat people” wave of refugees from Southeast Asia. Her debut graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts, 2017), has been selected as UCLA’s Common Book for 2017, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, an Eisner Award finalist in Reality Based Comics, and made several Best of 2017 book lists, including Bill Gates’s top five picks. Bui is also the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of A Different Pond, a picture book by the poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017). Her short comics can be found online at the Nib, PEN America, and BOOM California.

Bui taught high school in New York City and was a founding teacher of Oakland International High School, the first public high school in California for recent immigrants and English learners. Since 2015, she has been a faculty member of the MFA in Comics program at the California College of the Arts. Thi Bui lives in the Bay Area.

Seattle Reads 2019 Highlights

Community Involvement

We prioritized engagement with local Vietnamese-American community members and organizations by working with community partners to distribute books and plan engaging events, including:

  • Vietnamese Friendship Association
  • Xin Chao Magazine
  • UW Southeast Asia Center and History Department
  • Wing Luke Museum
  • Asian Counseling and Referral Services
  • Friends of Little Saigon

This was the first time since 2004 that we actively engaged audiences other than English speakers. Our outreach this year included working with community translator and the author to produce a translated excerpt of The Best We Could Do, which we printed and made available to community members.

Program Metrics

  • More than 1,200 people attended author visits and public programs
  • Homegoing was checked out more than 3,000 times between January and June (three times as much as the previous year's title in the same timeframe)
  • About half of participants said this was their first time participating in Seattle Reads. Of those participants, more than 60% identified as people of color or mixed race
  • We distributed 1,500 books at our locations and through community partners

Seattle Reads 2019 Photo Gallery