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

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

Honoring the Journey: A Celebration of Migrant Workers in Addison County

Join us for a festival on the New Haven Village Green in honor of the contributions of the migrant workers in our community. Our celebration will include food and music from Mexico and Central America, bilingual storytime, booths from local organizations, children’s crafts, first-hand sharing from migrant workers, all culminating an a community soccer game.

A red barn stands in the white snow in the winter of Vermont
Live Event

Vermonters and the Land

UVM professor Cheryl Morse—who studies how people perceive, co-produce, and experience rural places—reports on how different groups of Vermonters have engaged with land as landscape, place, and environment in recent years, and why these engagements matter in contemporary land debates.

A drawing of a woman standing on a pile of pharmaceutical pills
Live Event

What is Graphic Medicine?

Author and cartoonist Rachel Lindsay explores the themes of mental illness and psychopharmaceutical advertising, as chronicled in her book RX: A Graphic Memoir.

Vegetables and herbs hang to dry in front of a white wall
Live Event

Agrarian Storytelling & More

Members of the agrarian community share stories about food sovereignty, resilience, and being rooted in the land in this Fall Festival 2022 event hosted by Rural Vermont. Join us for an evening of storytelling and connection! Light snacks will be served.

A drone sits in a hangar looking out on a desert and mountain as a man in a jumpsuit walks towards it.
Hybrid Event

Dirty Work with Author Eyal Press

Journalist Eyal Press discusses his reporting for his award-winning book “Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America” which examines the morally troubling jobs that society tacitly condones, and the hidden class of workers who do them.

Three people sitting on a wooden platform, one on left playing a hand drum while the two on right sing
Live Event

Garifuna Collective: Keeping Culture Alive

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day (October 10), the Chandler Center for the Arts hosts a conversation with members of the internationally renowned Garifuna Collective. They’ll relate stories about their ancestors and the displacement of the Garifuna people to Honduras and Belize.

Illustration of a woman walking across a farm wearing a winter coat.
Live Event

Non-Fiction Comics Festival

From science to politics, history to health care, cartooning has exploded as a legitimate medium for exploring non-fiction topics and the textures of lived experience. The first ever Non-Fiction Comics Festival will feature panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits by cartoonists who create non-fiction and autobiographical work.

Three young Mexican brothers wearing white and black T-shirts in a white room, each holding a box on the same fiddle
Live Event

The Villalobos Brothers in Concert

Born in Xalapa, Mexico, The Villalobos Brothers have been acclaimed as one of today’s leading contemporary Mexican ensembles. Their original compositions and arrangements masterfully fuse and celebrate the richness of Mexican folk music with the intricate harmonies of jazz and classical music.

Illustration of people gathered around a document to discuss civics
Live Event

Freedom and Unity Launch Party

Hosted by the Center for Cartoon Studies, this lively presentation about the making of Freedom and Unity, A Graphic Guide to Vermont Democracy will feature the cartoonists and scholars that helped create a comic book about the past, present, and potential of democracy and civics in Vermont.

Two elderly men sit in front of a white door on a red brick house while a dog watches through the window
Live Event

Migration Pathways: Stories of Yesterday and Today

Andrew Ingall, creator of the project “Warlé, Yesterday, and Today,” leads a participatory workshop inspired by the lives and legacy of Warren Kronemeyer and Leon Ingall, a Vermont couple who were entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Townshend, VT during the 1980 and 1990s.

Two Cosplayers at the New York ComicCon in 2016 are dressed as Mr. Freeze and Black Panther and stand facing each other against a gray wall
Live Event

Diasporic Immigrant Superheroes: From Foreign to BIPOC & LGBTQ+

Middlebury College professor Enrique García reviews the American superhero genre and how it has served as a tool to disseminate utopian ideas about immigration and the American Dream. While discussing characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and La Borinqueña, García reflects on comic artists’ struggles to overcome imperial ideas of white supremacy, heteronormativity, and American exceptionalism.

A drawing of a Civil War soldier standing on a cold field in black and white
Live Event

Drawing Community: Creating Comics from Shared Stories

Using examples from his work with the Vermont Reads 2022 book The Most Costly Journey (El Viaje Más Caro) and his Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby series, cartoonist Marek Bennett explores how the act of cartooning can help us forge connections, build empathy, and challenge set definitions of identity and belonging. 

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