Luther College hosts lecture by Thi Bui, author of “The Best We Could Do”

August 17, 2020

Luther College students, faculty, staff and Decorah community members are welcome to celebrate the start of the new academic year by attending a special virtual Opening Convocation at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31. Everyone is welcome to view the live-streamed event at

            This year, Luther College is pleased to have Thi Bui, author of "The Best We Could Do," give the Opening Convocation address. Bui was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1978 as part of the "boat people" wave of refugees fleeing Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War. Bui's illustrated memoir, "The Best We Could Do," was the campus-wide summer reading for the 2020-21 academic year. It will be the first text discussed in Paideia classes this fall as first-year students seek to answer the question, "What connects and what divides us?"

            "'The Best We Could Do' is about all kinds of connections and divisions that are hugely relevant in today's world: between immigrants and their old and new communities, between parents and children, between people who are marginalized and those who are in power, and between people of different political ideologies," said Kathy Reed, Paideia director and instructor in music. "Everyone I have spoken with--students, colleagues and Decorah community members--has loved this book. It reaches people in so many ways, and to have the author speak directly to us will allow us to make deep and memorable connections."

            "The Best We Could Do" is a graphic novel that tells a true story through visual images with captions. In the book, 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 as immigrants in the United States.

            "While 'The Best We Could Do' tells Bui's unique story as the child of parents who endured decades of conflict in Vietnam, it provides a pathway to more universal conversations about the complicated relationships parents and children share and illustrates how storytelling, both listening to stories and writing new ones, is an essential part of building community," said Marie Drews, assistant professor of English and Paideia instructor. "Graphic narratives, by design, invite a particular kind of reader engagement and participation. I am excited about what unique insights students will bring to their reading of 'The Best We Could Do' and hope that the talk might encourage community members to explore the genre more fully."

            Drews will lead a virtual interview with Bui, incorporating questions submitted by Paideia students and community members, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2. Visit for a link to the live-streamed event, which is open to the public. 

"The Best We Could Do" has been selected for an American Book Award. It is a Common Book for UCLA, Luther College and other colleges and universities; an all-city read through the Seattle and San Francisco public libraries; a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography; and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics. It made over 30 best of 2017 book lists, including Bill Gates' top five picks.

Copies of the book are available in the Luther College Book Shop.

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