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

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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