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 photo from Vermont Lesbian and Gay Pride march in 1983
Live Event

Stories from the Vermont Queer Archives

Objects such as banners, T-shirts, and buttons in the Vermont Queer Archives at the Pride Center of Vermont reflect currents and changes in the lives of Vermont’s LGBTQ+ community. Meg Tamulonis, volunteer curator of the Archives, discusses how these objects mark various milestones, from Pride events to legal rulings, and considers why some parts of the queer community aren’t well-represented in the Archives.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Exhibit: “Responses: Asian American Voices Resisting the Tides of Racism”

This exhibit curated and produced by Museum of Chinese in America raises a collective voice against the rising tide of anti-Asian hate and violence, and features stories of Asian American resilience, generosity, creativity and agency.

Banner image with Vermont Humanities 50th logo with speaker headshots and a multi colored abstract painting
Live Event

Responses Exhibit Opening Reception

Join Vermont Humanities and the Manchester Community Library for a special gallery opening with the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) exhibit Responses. Responses originated at the MOCA in New York in 2021 and was conceived of as an offering to our communities in a moment of crisis. Chinese and Asian Americans were being blamed as the genesis of the coronavirus and targeted in assaults across the country, harming their bodies as well as their sense of belonging. To help us navigate what was happening, this exhibition explored the lessons of history and raised a collective voice against the rising tide of anti-Asian hate and violence.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Live Event

Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era

What happened in Vermont when the anti-Communist fear known as the “Red Scare” swept the country? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Rick Winston, author of the book “Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era,” explores some forgotten history as we see how a small, rural “rock-ribbed Republican” state with a historically libertarian streak handled the hysteria of the time.

Live Event

Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era

What happened in Vermont when the anti-Communist fear known as the “Red Scare” swept the country? Quite a bit, as it turns out. Rick Winston, author of the book “Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era,” explores some forgotten history as we see how a small, rural “rock-ribbed Republican” state with a historically libertarian streak handled the hysteria of the time.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Author Malinda Lo Visits Vermont: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

To celebrate the Vermont Reads 2023 selection Last Night at the Telegraph Club, join National Book Award Winner Malinda Lo as she discusses writing about queer life in the 1950s and shares how young adult fiction can speak to readers of any age. The conversation will be moderated by National Book Award Finalist M. T. Anderson, the author of Feed.

Painting of two girls in 1950s San Francisco in a corner under a streetlamp
Live Event

Vermont Reads: Last Night at the Telegraph Club Discussion

Come to the library for an interesting and informative community book discussion of the Vermont Reads book Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

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