UC Santa Barbara Library and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor are pleased to announce the selection of a book for UCSB Reads 2019 — “The Best We Could Do,” an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui.
For over ten years, since the program’s start in 2007, UCSB Reads has brought the campus and Santa Barbara communities together to read a common book that explores important issues of our time.
“The Best We Could Do” is a memoir written in the form of a comic book, in the tradition of Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” and Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis.” Thi Bui chronicles generations of her family history in Vietnam, including her birth during the final months of the Vietnam War and her parents’ escape to, and early years in, the United States. The story is rendered in flashbacks from Bui’s current life as a new mother in California. Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen has described “The Best We Could Do” as a “compelling memoir” that will “break your heart and heal it.”
An advisory committee made up of faculty, staff, students, and community representatives selected “The Best We Could Do” for this year’s book, citing its creative and intimate portrayal of struggles of identity, family relations, immigration, and displacement.
UCSB Reads 2019 will begin in January when the Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor, and University Librarian distribute free copies of the book to UCSB students in UCSB Library. During the winter and spring quarters, UCSB Library will sponsor faculty talks, book discussions, exhibitions, and other programs on campus and in the community. Bui will deliver a free public lecture in Campbell Hall on April 25, 2019.
A Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator, Bui teaches in the MFA in Comics Program at the California College of the Arts. “The Best We Could Do” was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle and Eisner awards, and was selected for many “Best of 2017” book lists. Bui is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about how Asian American Pacific Islanders are impacted by detention and deportation.
Faculty are encouraged to incorporate “The Best We Could Do” into their winter or spring courses; the Library will provide free copies of the book to all students enrolled in these courses. If you wish to teach the book, participate in campus or community programming, or support UCSB Reads 2019, please contact:
Alex Regan, Events and Exhibitions Librarian