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Author Thi Bui shares personal, political history from best seller ‘The Best We Could Do’ in FREE event Tuesday, Feb. 4

The Lipscomb community has a unique opportunity to hear from a number of thought leaders from across the nation each year.

Cate Zenzen  | 


The Nashville community will have a unique opportunity to hear the personal journey of author Thi Bui as shared in her bestselling graphic memoir The Best We Could Do at a special FREE event on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

Bui will speak at 6 p.m. in Collins Alumni Auditorium with a book signing immediately to follow. The event is free and open to the public. The event is hosted by Lipscomb University’s LIGHT Program.

The Best We Could Do is the story of Bui’s family in the years before, during and after the Vietnam War. Her parents lost nearly everything during the war, and ended up fleeing Vietnam in the late 1970s, when Bui was just a small child. Her debut graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts, 2017) has been selected for an American Book Award, a Common Book for UCLA and other colleges and universities, an all-city read by Seattle and San Francisco public libraries, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics. 

She illustrated the picture book A Different Pond, written by the poet Bao Phi (Capstone, 2017), for which she won a Caldecott Honor. With her son, she co-illustrated the children’s book Chicken of the Sea (McSweeney’s, 2019), written by Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen and his son, Ellison. Her short comics can be found online at The Nib, PEN America and BOOM California. She is currently researching and drawing a work of graphic nonfiction about immigrant detention and deportation, to be published by One World, Random House.

Picture of books

The Best We Could Do was selected by Lipscomb’s LIGHT program as the university’s 2019-20 Common Read. LIGHT offers students a chance to expand their knowledge and perspective of cultures around the world, and the Common Read continues this expansion through the written word. The goal of Lipscomb’s LIGHT Program is to prepare students to live lives of active collaboration and engagement with communities and cultures all over. 

“LIGHT is an intercultural competence program whose goal is to respond to the Biblical imperative of neighboring--welcoming those from near and far and acting in love and mercy toward them--from an academic perspective,” says Cori Mathis, assistant director of the LIGHT Program and the Writing Studio. “By partnering with departments around campus, we offer students a chance to develop a deeper understanding of diversity and equity and its place in their majors and eventual careers. Intercultural competence is about becoming responsibly educated about various cultural groups and their struggles and concerns, which in turn allows for respectful, effective interactions in our day-to-day lives.” 

Mathis says this is the third year that the LIGHT program has selected a book as a Common Read for the Lipscomb community. Books that are selected are based on topics that “help create awareness of the world around us and help us to be good neighbors.” 

“With 52 nations represented in the Lipscomb student body, there are likely a number of students who come from countries experiencing unrest,” she says. “Bui’s timely narrative can resonate with some, and really change the mindset of others. We believe our students will get a lot from her personal story. People may not always be aware of the stories of the students who sit next to them in class every day.”

The Common Read is a shared reading program that encourages the university as a whole to read and discuss a book in common. Some professors use it in their class curriculum, but faculty and staff are encouraged to read as well. The Common Read is just one of the many ways the LIGHT office works to incorporate cultural awareness into university experiences. 

As a graphic memoir, Bui’s account will stand out from other novels. Mathis believes students will find this format appealing and also receive a “more holistic view of history.” 

Past Common Reads include “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel in 2018 and “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly in 2019. 

Lipscomb’s LIGHT Program prepares students to live lives of active collaboration and engagement with communities and cultures all over the world. Through its globally focused curriculum and experiential learning, students will not only develop respectful attentiveness to diversity, but also increase their understanding of cultural practices, systems and institutional structures. Most importantly, they will respond to the call to love their neighbors as themselves. For more information visit