This year, I have taken up a challenge on Goodreads to atleast read 40 books. I am at 29/40 now. My 27th book in the “Read” list was Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”. Coming from one of the most misunderstood women in the history of American politics, it was heart wrenching to read what Hilary went through after the colossal loss. How can using a personal email id mask all the good stuff she had done over the years, how can people conveniently forget how hard she had worked along with Obama to keep the Big brother safe, how can they chose a self-confessing “pussy-grabber” over a person who had education and experience to lead a country that every other country looks up to, how can they sideline this woman’s body of work and entrust the entire political responsibility to a man whose only promise to make America great again was building a big wall? That memoir got a lot of emotion out of me and I chose to go back to reading some graphic novels so I could at least complete the reading challenge on time.
I came across a listicle from Vulture for the best graphic novels of 2017. They had a glorious review of “The Best we Could do” by Thi Bui. The post said it was her debut novel and it helps a lot to relate to the immigrant situation going on in the great America. I decided to buy it right away and did I make the best decision of the week!
The Best we could do is about 3 generations of Vietnam Immigrants whose 3rd gen has moved to California. Thi Bui actually learnt comic-writing to come up with this gem of a book. While illustrations are beautiful and are only bichromatic, the poetic text content kept me awake till 1am last night. The struggles of Vietnam’s immigrants, their crisis for identity, their complex issues of educating their children, to continue their upbringing with whatever best they could do – It is all articulated beautifully in the book.
After Maus, this is a graphic novel that helped me realize again what a privilege it is to have a normal life, to have 3 meals a day, a roof over your head, to have sweaters when you get cold, to listen to music when you are low, to jog in the early mornings in the calming nature, to watch TV when you get bored. What a privilege it is to go on a creative pursuit, to have enough money to travel, to have a mind to focus on a job!
This book also helped me view my parents in a different light. Doesn’t mean I ever disrespected them but I now know why they did what they did at times. The decisions they made were not random, not to benefit themselves, it was to give their children the best they could at a given point in time. I am always amazed at strong women. My mother is strong but I always figured it was natural for her to be that. After reading this book and to witness second hand, how strong Thi’s mother was, to read about her sacrifices and the fact that she prioritized feeding her children over her labor was what made me understand, it is not natural. The inner strength is not natural to everyone; it is only that our mothers make it look so effortless. And I feel so grateful for having had such strong parents.
This book was a beautiful ode to all that we take for granted in life. And am only lucky to have stumbled on the article that led me to read this book. Take a bow Thi!