Vermont Humanities

Vermont Reads 2022: The Most Costly Journey

Black and white cartoon drawing of a farmer in rubber boots with cows in a Vermont barn yard
Vermont Reads

The cover of The Most Costly Journey bookMuch of the work on Vermont dairy farms is done by people from Latin America. Over a thousand migrant laborers from Mexico and other countries milk cows, fix tractors, shovel manure, and take care of calves in our state.

Our Vermont Reads 2022 choice, The Most Costly Journey (El viaje más caro), tells the stories of 19 of these workers in their own words. Illustrated by New England cartoonists in a variety of styles, each short chapter describes aspects of life as an immigrant farm worker in Vermont: crossing the southern border, struggling with English, adapting to winter, growing gardens, raising children, dealing with health crises, and working long hours.

We invite Vermont communities to take part in Vermont Reads 2022 by planning projects centered around The Most Costly Journey and its themes of migration, farming, mental health, cartooning, family, labor movements, and the Latinx experience, among others.

The start date for Vermont Reads 2022: The Most Costly Journey was July 1, 2022. Applications for projects will be accepted through June 30, 2023.

The book’s origins

The Most Costly Journey had its genesis at The Open Door Clinic in Middlebury, a free health clinic that serves people who do not have health insurance, and those who are underinsured. About half of the clinic’s patients are agricultural immigrant workers.

Many of these workers stay close to the farms where they work out of fear of being deported, lack of transportation, or other reasons. The problems caused by this isolation led nurse Julia Doucet to imagine a series of Spanish-language pamphlets that would help farm workers share their stories with each other. She chose cartooning as the medium for the pamphlets, as comics are common in Latin America and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and literacy levels.

This video about the making of the pamphlets that became “The Most Costly Journey” includes a conversation between Vermont farm worker “El Migrante” (the Migrant) and cartoonist Marek Bennett about collaborating on his story. 

Cartoon of Latina woman in boots walking across a farm yard

These comics open a doorway to healing for these economic migrants—and bring their experiences to light for all Americans in search of compassionate solutions to our immigration crisis

Andrew Aydin
National Book Award-winning co-author of the "March Trilogy"

To make the comics, Julia, other clinic staff and volunteers, and faculty and staff from the UVM Department of Anthropology and UVM Extension’s Bridges to Health Program collected stories from migrant workers. The Vermont Folklife Center helped develop the project’s collaborative methods and connect cartoonists—including Tillie Walden, Glynnis Fawkes, and Marek Bennett—to the workers’ stories to create the pamphlets.

Grants from the UVM Humanities Center and the Vermont Community Foundation funded a series of English translations of the pamphlets. A Kickstarter campaign helped raise the capital needed to print the English-language The Most Costly Journey, which includes a foreword by Vermont novelist Julia Alvarez.

Kickoff Panel Discussion

On July 14, three people central to the creation of The Most Costly Journey discussed migration, farming, mental health, cartooning, and the Latinx farmworker experience in Vermont. This event was held at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro.

View Recording

Graphic Medicine Comics Award logo 2022Nominated for an Award

The Most Costly Journey was shortlisted for the inaugural Graphic Medicine International Collective (GMIC) Award for the outstanding health-related comic project completed and/or published in 2021.

More about this award

To support Vermont Reads 2022 we’ll host a series of monthly public events featuring in-person and online discussions and presentations around the book’s themes, including up to a dozen Fall Festival events in October and regular First Wednesdays lectures on these topics through May 2023.

Vermont Reads Events

Detail of cover of The Most Costly Journey, showing a drawing of a Mexican man holding a paintbrush and a photo of his family
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Podcast Interviews

Bring a friend or family member to share a short story about finding yourself in new places or situation. Your story will be edited by teens and shared with the wider community as part of our 2023 Vermont Reads Programming about “The Most Costly Journey.” Prompts and easy-to-follow instructions will be available, along with help from a youth librarian.

Detail of cover of The Most Costly Journey, showing a drawing of a Mexican man holding a paintbrush and a photo of his family
Live Event

Under the Cloak of Darkness Film Screening

The Waterbury Public Library wraps up its Vermont Reads 2022 programming with a movie night “Under the Cloak of Darkness” (2008), a feature-length documentary about Vermont’s migrant Mexican farm worker population that aims to humanize this invisible community and bring to light the issues surrounding migrant labor.  The movie will be followed by a discussion and refreshments.

Cover of "Run!" by John Lewis
Live Event

John Lewis and RUN!

In this special Farmers’ Night presentation at the Vermont State House, Andrew Aydin, co-author of The March Trilogy with civil rights icon John Lewis, describes the creation of the next book in the series, RUN! Aydin also relates becoming an author, how he became involved in politics, and his experiences working with Congressman Lewis.

Cover of "Run!" by John Lewis
Hybrid Event

For Vermont Students: John Lewis and RUN!

In this free live-streamed presentation for Vermont middle and high school students, Andrew Aydin, co-author of The March Trilogy with civil rights icon John Lewis, describes the creation of the next book in the series, RUN! He’ll be joined by a panel of students from Rutland Union High School.

Black and white cartoon drawing of a farmer in rubber boots with cows in a Vermont barn yard
Live Event

The Most Costly Journey: Latin American Migrant Workers, Health Care, and Collaborative Non-Fiction Comics

In this presentation, Andy Kolovos from the Vermont Folklife Center and Julia Grand Doucet from the Open Door Clinic provide an overview of the goals of the El Viaje Más Caro Project.

Image of James Sturm
Hybrid Event

Vermont Reads: Book Discussion with James Sturm

Join a discussion with James Sturm at Hartford High School & virtual gathering at the Quechee Library. A multi-generational talk about the art of the graphic novel and how it lends itself to portraying personal stories, difficult issues and historical events.

Market Bennett wearing a blue shirt with a tan fedora hat drawing at a table
Hybrid Event

The Most Costly Journey Comics Workshop

Join award-winning cartoonist and educator Marek Bennett as he presents some of the many comics documenting human migrations and struggles throughout the ages, and lead a hands-on demo to show how YOU can cartoon the stories of your own family, neighborhood, and wider world.

Live Event

Vermont Reads Film Series: Who is Dayani Cristal?

In the film “Who is Dayani Cristal?” an anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for identity leads us back across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo.

Detail of cover of The Most Costly Journey, showing a drawing of a Mexican man holding a paintbrush and a photo of his family
Live Event

The Most Costly Journey Book Discussion

Join fellow community members in Essex Junction and Williston for a discussion of this year’s Vermont Reads book, “The Most Costly Journey.” This discussion is offered as a collaboration between Brownell Library and Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. Attendees may join in person at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library where we will discuss the book over a cup of Mexican Hot Cocoa, or register to receive the virtual link.

Illustration from the book Dolores Huerta A Hero to Migrant Workers featuring a group of organizers on a farm with protest signs and a megaphone
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Home School Book Club

Join us for a read aloud of “Lola Out Loud” and “Dolores Huerta: A Hero to the Migrant Workers” and a discussion about migrant workers. Reading will be followed by a themed activity. For ages 6-10, siblings welcome.

a volunteer conservationist hold hula hoops and stands in a forest wearing a mask
Digital Event

Biodiversity, Conservation, and Civic Participation in Paraguay

South America’s Atlantic Forest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Cristian Fretes Ojeda, technical trainer for Peace Corps Paraguay, discusses how civic participation is leading the effort to conserve crucial natural areas like the Atlantic Forest and the Gran Chaco, which span several South American countries. 

Detail of cover of The Most Costly Journey, showing a drawing of a Mexican man holding a paintbrush and a photo of his family
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Podcast Interviews

Bring a friend or family member to share a short story about finding yourself in new places or situation. Your story will be edited by teens and shared with the wider community as part of our 2023 Vermont Reads Programming about “The Most Costly Journey.” Prompts and easy-to-follow instructions will be available, along with help from a youth librarian.

Vermont Reads Supporters

Vermont Humanities is grateful to the underwriter of Vermont Reads 2022, Jan Blomstrann, and for the support of the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation.

Vermont Reads is presented in partnership with The National Endowment for the Humanities—A More Perfect Union Initiative as part of an effort to deepen public understanding of the American experience—in all its complexities—and enhance the knowledge, skills, and capacities needed to sustain a thriving republic and to commemorate our 250th anniversary as a nation.

Banner image from “A Heart Split in Two (The Story of Juana),” illustrated by Michael Tonn.

Vermont Humanities*** April 1, 2022