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“How Much of Me Is My Own?”
Imagining the Ocean in Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do”
ABSTRACT In many American narratives, oceans play a significant role, often as routes that are traveled in order to start a new life. The voluntary or involuntary journey across the ocean often changes the protagonists, hence rendering the sea a space of identity formation. The ocean in Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do (2017) is not only a reoccurring motif, but signifies the ordeal, trauma, and dislocation of refugees from Vietnam. The images of the ocean and waves visually connect the personal story of the protagonist to the larger history of Vietnam and the trauma of her parents and, at the same time, signify the hopes and anxieties connected to flight and relocation experienced by refugees.
KEYWORDS refugee narratives, ocean, postcolonialism, trauma, Southeast Asia