For Immediate Release: September 6, 2018
Media Contact: Katherine Jardine
(415) 557-4295 / Katherine.Jardine@sfpl.org
Media Contact: Mindy Linetzky
(415) 557-4252/ Mindy.Linetzky@sfpl.org
San Francisco Public Library Announces 2018 One City One Book
The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui
San Francisco, CA — San Francisco Public Library is excited to announce that The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui has been selected as the 2018 One City One Book. Published by Abrams ComicArts, this is the first graphic novel that has been selected for One City One Book.
In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do explores the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child. 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. The Best We Could Do is a haunting memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for a simpler past. 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 illustrations can.
“I am truly honored that The Best We Could Do has been selected for One City One Book 2018,” says author Thi Bui. “As a refugee of the Vietnam War and an Asian American woman, the Bay Area’s rich history is incredibly important to me. It is where the term ‘Asian American’ was coined in the 60’s by student activists at Berkeley, and was also the site of historic protests against the Vietnam War. We are living in a time in U.S. history where anti-immigration policies are simultaneously closing doors on displaced people and separating families currently living in the U.S, and it is incredibly important that communities come together on a local level to speak out against these injustices. The Best We Could Do is a book about the traumatic effects displacement has on families and the individual, and I hope that in being selected for the One City One Book program it is able to inspire Bay Area readers not just to have thoughtful and nuanced conversations about these issues, but also to take action.”
Since the publication of the hardcover in March 2017, 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. Thi Bui is a rising star in the comics and literary world, and her debut work is not to be missed.
Read The Best We Could Do and join the Library for the 14th Annual One City One Book program extravaganza. Copies of The Best We Could Do will be featured in all San Francisco libraries and at bookstores around the city.
Citywide programming will take place in October. Participants can join book discussions, check out themed exhibits, attend author talks and participate in many other events.
Thi Bui in Conversation with Author Lauren Markham – Oct. 25, 6 p.m., Main Library, Koret Auditorium
About the Author
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) was a national bestseller and has been selected as National Book Critics Circle finalist, an Indies Introduce pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers title, and a Junior Library Guild selection. She is also the illustrator of A Different Pond, a children’s book by acclaimed poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017). 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. She currently teaches in the MFA in Comics program at the California College of the Arts. She lives in Berkeley with her son, her husband and her mother.
Editorial Reviews + Awards
2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist
ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 Selection
ALA 2018 Notable Books Selection
“Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle.”
— Library Journal
“Like Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece, “Maus,” Bui’s memoir elicits complex emotions from understated pen-and-ink drawings.”
— The San Francisco Chronicle
“…a nuanced and heartfelt immigrant tale, brought to true life through beautiful and brilliant illustration. On top of that, it’s an especially poignant read from the vantage point of 2017.”
“…a cinematic epic that poignantly tracks several generations through immigration and emotional dislocation. At its best, this memoir feels not just created but also deeply lived.”
— Michael Cavna, The Washington Post
“When Bui began work on The Best We Could Do in 2005, she couldn’t have predicted the significance it would hold when it was released in 2017, but now that it’s here, it feels like one of the first great works of socially relevant comics art of the Trump era…Bui presents that saga in a way that is narratively intricate, intellectually fastidious, and visually stunning.”
“Thi Bui’s stark, compelling memoir is about an ordinary family, but her story delivers the painful truth that most Vietnamese of the 20th century know in an utterly personal fashion—that history is found in the marrow of one’s bones, ready to be passed on through blood, through generations, through feelings. A book to break your heart and heal it.”
— Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist
“In creatively telling a complicated story with the kind of feeling words alone rarely relay, The Best We Could Do does the very best that comics can do. This is a necessary, ever-timely story to share far and wide.”
“She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it… In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty.”
— Publishers Weekly
“The Best We Could Do burns back the dead skin of public War memory. Underneath is the raw flesh of another kind of war story—of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brutally intimate and intimately brutal. This book is a must-read.”
— Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, The Asian American Literary Review, curator for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
“This bold, brutal book is the new calligraphy—an exquisite marriage of alphabet and imagery. Each sentence, each scene, and each story breaks down a country, a family, and a father. Then, frame by frame, with artistic vigor and monastic devotion, Thi Bui rebuilds a world in which guilt conquers grief and gratitude becomes not only a guide, but our new Deity. The Best We Could Do teaches us how to say no to fear and yes to truth.”
— Fae Myenne Ng, author of Bone, a PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, Steer Toward Rock, winner of the American Book Award
About One City One Book
One City One Book: San Francisco Reads is an annual citywide literary event that encourages members of the San Francisco community to read the same book at the same time and then discuss it in book groups and at events throughout the City. By building bridges between communities and generations through the reading and most importantly the discussion of – one book, we hope to help to make reading a lifelong pursuit and to build a more literate society. Sponsors for One City One Book include the San Francisco Public Library and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. The program is also supported by many bookstore partners, program partners and media sponsors.