Vermont Humanities

Leading a Book Discussion

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

Note: we strongly recommend that facilitators of book discussions centered around The Most Costly Journey read the Afterword of the book, as it provides important background and context.

Ideas for a Dynamic Discussion

  • Use a facilitator, preferably someone who loves literature, has experience leading discussions, and has taken the time to read and research the book carefully. They should be prepared with a list of stimulating questions (the list on this page is a good start) and should try to include everyone in the conversation. See the list of Reading and Discussion facilitators at the bottom of the page.
  • For in-person meetings, it is best to seat people in a circle. If the group is too large for this configuration, ask people to speak loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear, or, as appropriate, ask them to stand and face the group when talking. If your discussion needs to happen virtually, break-out rooms are helpful for large numbers.
  • Don’t forget the introductions! Be creative — in addition to stating their names, people might briefly share their general impressions of the book, their reason for attending, or something about the book for discussion.
  • Discussion facilitators should end the discussion with some kind of “closer.” One example is asking everyone (or, if the group is large, volunteers) to share a final thought about the book or the experience they just had discussing it. Or ask volunteers to read their favorite sentence or paragraph from the book.
  • Please plan to have space available after the group in case any one present would like to ask more questions one-on-one or get additional resources about anything that came up in the conversation.  Some participants may need one-on-one time after the group discussion.
  • If the discussion is in person, please serve refreshments!

Discussion Questions for Middle and High School Readers

  1. The book was originally created for the Latinx migrant community to address specific mental health issues. Have you had an experience when telling stories helped you feel better? If so, describe that experience.
  2. What common themes run through these stories?
  3. Describe some of the hardships these migrant workers face in Vermont.
  4. What strengths do people in the stories show? What vulnerabilities?
  5. Have there ever been times when you felt isolated and disconnected from your family and friends, perhaps when you were in a strange or new place? If so, what did you do to deal with those feelings? Based on reading the stories in the book, do these farm workers have the same options you did? Why or why not?
  6. What is the message of the story “Language is Power”?
  7. Why do you think there is a story that is all about driver’s licenses?
  8. Reading the story “You Will Be Accepted,” are you surprised to learn about gay people in other countries?
  9. If you were to write a short comic about your community, what story would you want to tell?

Additional Discussion Questions for Adult Readers

  1. The graphic narrative/comic-book format of the book is intended first and foremost to help migrant workers in Vermont as a form of mental health therapy. Did you find this format to be an effective way of telling and hearing these stories? How might the impact of the stories be different if they were told using only text?
  2. In her preface Julia Grand Doucet quotes Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Does this frame of reference help you to understand the purpose of The Most Costly Journey? How would you interpret the meaning of this title?
  3. Have you ever spent a long time away from loved ones, in order to pay for education or to do something else important? If so, what was that experience like? Did reading these stories remind you of that experience? Why or why not?
  4. Did you notice in some of the stories that people followed their relatives to places in the United States? Why do you think that happens? What are some of the consequences of this “chain migration” for the communities where they settle?
  5. After reading the book, how would you respond if someone were to say that migrant workers were taking jobs from Americans?
  6. The stories in the book show Vermonters being kind and helpful to migrant workers at times, and sometimes making things harder for these workers. How has your community responded when new people arrive? Do you believe that it can be more welcoming of newcomers? If so, what steps might it take to be more welcoming?
  7. In the story “The School of Life,” why is the organization Migrant Justice described as “the school of life”? In what ways does the organization help migrant workers?
  8. Do you know how your family arrived in the United States and Vermont? If so, what were the parallels between what your family experienced and what Vermont’s migrant farm workers have experienced? What were the differences? Why do you think their experiences were different?
  9. Before reading these stories, were you aware of Latinx farm workers in Vermont? If so, what was your impression of these workers? Did reading the book change your perception of them? If so, how did it change?

Thanks to Alan Berolzheimer from The Flow of History for developing this discussion guide.

Facilitators for The Most Costly Journey

Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Woman leading a book discussion group with a book open on her lap
Vermont Humanities*** April 1, 2022