Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Best We Could Do

After Chances Are... by Richard Russo, on Martha's Vineyard, I did not make it to Cape Cod for That Old Cape Magic, which was not at hand in the stacks at the library, so I opted for Bridge of Sighs, instead, set in the small town of Thomaston, New York, and sometimes Venice, Italy, with some graphic novels in between, and right after. Indeed, a certain phrase in Bridge of Sighs, about families doing "the best we can do," was the bridge to The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui.

Thi Bui tells and draws the story of her family coming to America from Vietnam, after the war, via boat and refugee camp, as well as the story of coming to understand her parents better after becoming a parent herself. It's lovely and honest, and made me think. I realize it's part of my ongoing education this summer in equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

As always I was aware of the random coincidences. In Bridge of Sighs, the town is poisoned by chemicals and dyes from the local tannery, that get poured into Cayoga Stream. In The Best We Could Do, the author's father helps create a small town, building roads and houses, creating a pleasant, self-sufficient environment with a well-stocked pond, until a fabric dyer moves to town, pours her dyes into the pond, and kills all life in it.

Both books tell a family saga and explore the love and a reticence born of trauma that can affect relationships for a long time. Both move toward even deeper love and understanding, and leave some things unsaid, uncertain. Both made me think about, miss, and connect with my own family.

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