25th Manga Division Excellence Award
THE BEST WE COULD DO: AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR
Thi BUI［United States］
This is an autobiographical graphic novel by a Vietnamese-American author tracing her family history. The story begins in 2005 in New York City, where author BUI gives birth to her baby. The story progresses while switching between BUI’s current experience as a mother, and her parents’ childhood as they grow up in Vietnam, and depicts their escape from Vietnam to the U.S. The family history spans five generations, intertwined with the turbulent modern history of Vietnam, including World War II, the First Indochina War, and the Vietnam War. This is the author’s first graphic novel. After learning about her parents’ lives during her oral history research in graduate school, she learned from scratch how to draw graphic novels to write a memoir of her family. Along with the black ink lines, the vermilion watercolor portrays the continuous story of parents and offspring, sometimes becoming thick and bold to express blood and flames, and other times light and blurry to depict the heartwarming atmosphere around the house.
Reason for Award
This work is drawn as a family memoir but turned out to be something more than a mere oral history and a “memoir,” rather a full-length artistic work. The story grew together with the author’s newborn son, and took ten years to complete. Its depiction of trauma being passed down to the next generation is very delicate and clever. The work drawn in pale watercolor has a nostalgic but somewhat sad air. Among the documentaries and journalistic works that are often found in bookstores lately, this work stands out because it employs a woman’s perspective on giving birth and the fear of losing a vulnerable life. Death and life are two sides of the same coin, and the author’s life overlaps with that of her mother from the moment when she gives birth. Through each other’s different perspectives, the recurring elements enhance the story. Incidents experienced by the family in the past seem to spiritually influence the present. I would like to recommend this work to many readers. (Jessica BAUWENS-SUGIMOTO)