Tag Archives: Harry N. Abrams

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

Title: The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Author: Thi Bui
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 978-1419718779
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

The times we live in aren’t easy. We live in xenophobic times. As much as I hate to say it, it is true and we cannot turn a blind eye to this one. In these times, as much as I don’t want to read what stares in my face all over the place – on Twitter, on FB, on almost every social media – hatred for a religion or class, or a set of people that aren’t yours, but you read because you feel you will understand and empathize better and this is the time “The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir” came into my life.

This is a graphic memoir, which means it happened to the author and her family – a set of events – after her parents moved to the land of milk and honey from Vietnam on a boat. The story is deceptively simple but layered with relationships issues, immigration and belonging issues and above all: what it really takes to blend in? Do people who come from outside can after all be called citizens of a particular country even after decades or do they have to keep proving themselves and their patriotism over and over again?

Bui’s story is the story of her family – as she begins to adjust to being a first-time mother, she reminiscences what it means to be a parent from her parents’ perspective – from the sacrifices to unnoticed gestures to love that need not be spoken all the time. In all of this is America – Grand Old America in the background (not as much) always making them question their identity and the importance of home. There are panels that are so breathtakingly beautiful and how they mingle with the prose – will make you weep and in the next panel before you know it you are smiling and cheering on for Thi and her circumstances.

This book as Viet Thanh Nguyen claims will break your heart and then heal it – did just that for me. What is funny is that I also spoke to my maternal aunt after reading this book to know her memories of coming to India from Pakistan during the Great Partition and what it was like for them. “The Best We Could Do” as the title suggests is just that – the best they did and how sometimes you have to keep doing your best to find your place in the world.

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Hurry up and Wait by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler

Hurry up and Wait Title: Hurry Up and Wait
Authors: Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler in association with Museum of Modern Art
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 978-0870709593
Genre: Picture Books
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

From the time I read “Why we broke up” by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, I have been a fan of whatever they come about to do together. Their works together are something else – for children or for adults. The creative collaboration I am sure must be quite something for the two, but the end result for the readers is magnificent. The good thing about this book is that it is also done in association with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – and is quite reflective of Handler’s and Kalman’s playful creativity.

This time for me that happened when I read “Hurry up and Wait” – another collaboration between the two (after reading this I immediately ordered a copy of Girls standing on lawns) – and as the title suggests, it is about hurrying up and also waiting to smell the roses.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 1

The book is not a long one. It can be read under fifteen to twenty minutes, however I would not recommend this book being read or seen that way. At first, it may seem nothing – this 64 page book. It might even seem a colossal waste of money (that is if you are one of those who gauge a book’s worth basis the number of pages) but trust me, it is a book that you will keep going back to once every month or so.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 2

Life’s pace is rushed. It is terribly hurried. We don’t know what to make of its pace sometimes, well at least I don’t know what to make of it. There are times then when all I want to do is stop – to look at everything closely – to perhaps give life another go.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 3

There are eleven vibrant illustrations by Kalman and each one comes with a note on hurrying up and waiting by Handler. It is whimsical, capturing people (as provided by MoMA) in motion or not, giving readers a sense of time lost or regained (if we try).
I now cannot wait for my copy of “Girls standing on lawns” to reach me.

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