Summer Reading 2019

The Best We Could Do

The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui

Please select one of the prompts below and reflect on it. Then, compose a short response using specific examples from the text (1-2 pages, double-spaced). Information on how to cite sources in MLA, APA, or Chicago style can be found on Purdue’s Online Writing Lab. Be prepared to submit your response to your First-Year Seminar professor on the first day of class, and to engage in a discussion of the book.

Prompt 1

In the Preface, Bui describes her process of creating a family history through multiple drafts and formats. She explains that her original version: “had photographs and some art, but mostly writing, and it was pretty academic. However, I didn’t feel like I had solved the storytelling problem of how to present history in a way that is human and relatable and not oversimplified. I thought that turning it into a graphic novel might help.” How does Bui use the graphic form of The Best We Could Do convey meaning? How does the visual representation aid in Bui’s attempt to make history “human and relatable and not oversimplified”?

Prompt 2

Bui has revealed that The Best We Could Do is actually the third title she drafted for this project; early drafts were titled “Buis in Vietnam and America: A Memory Reconstruction” and later Refugee Reflex. What do you think Bui was trying to convey in the final title: “the best we could do”? How does it build on or diverge from the previous title drafts?

Prompt 3

In her concluding reflections, Bui writes, “But maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past” (325). What does Bui’s examination of her family’s history teach her about her own identity? For Bui, how are history, family, and identity interlinked?

Prompt 4

In her video letter to UCLA, Bui says that she had to “build empathy” in herself to write her memoir and to better communicate with her parents. One aim of The Best We Could Do, then, is for readers: “in spending time in these intimate moments with someone who might be very different from yourself, that you also build your own empathy and ability to relate to others” (Bui). How do you see Bui inviting readers to build empathy? How have you built empathy through the experience of reading this text?

Summer Reading Response Contest

You may also choose to submit your response to the Summer Reading Response Contest facilitated by the Writing Center and the Dean for Curriculum and Academic Engagement. Ten students will be selected to attend a special event with Thi Bui when she visits campus in September. Successful responses will present thoughtful and creative insights on the text. Please note that if your FYS professor has assigned you to complete a different prompt, you may still submit a contribution to the contest using your professor’s prompt. Submissions need to be Word or PDF documents, with the student’s last name as the document title, and a full name at the top of the essay. To submit your essay, please use the following Select Survey Form.