Bibliophile Book Picks: Sonia Alcantara-Antoine

January 10, 2022 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Happy New Year! We asked Baltimore County Public Library Director and avowed bibliophile Sonia Alcántara-Antoine to share her favorite recent reads in the library’s collection. See Sonia’s picks along with her thoughts on the titles and then read them for yourself! 

Portrait of Sonia in the library

Sonia’s Picks 

 

“American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins 
I was attracted to this one because of Oprah’s emphatic endorsement, followed by all the accusations about cultural appropriation. I wanted to see what all the hype was about, so I read the book. It is possible to hold two opposing ideas in our heads at once: 1) representation matters in publishing and we need more people of color telling stories that speak to their own experiences and 2) Cummins told a compelling story about the plight of migrant families seeking a better life. Read the book and judge for yourself.  

“The Mothers” by Brit Bennett 
Bennett’s debut book about two teens, Nadia and Luke, who have a summer fling that ends up in an unplanned pregnancy. The subsequent cover-up and its ramifications extend far into the future. This is a complex story about pain and loss, as the protagonists all have absent mothers, and how that shapes how they grow up and the decisions they make. An emotional and thought-provoking read. 

“The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris 
This was my summer read for this year but great anytime of the year! This book, a thriller and social satire wrapped into one, is about Nella, the lone African American employee at an elite publishing house. After juggling the high pressures of the job along with confidence-busting isolation and microaggressions, she is excited when another Black employee is hired. But everything starts to unravel in a shocking and nail-biting plot twist, pointing to a sinister plot that is bigger than Nella, her job and her workplace. This book is fearless—one of the most inventive I’ve read in a long time. 

“Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams 
This book is about all the bad decisions we make in our 20s, when we don’t know our self-worth. At times, the main character, Queenie, is infuriating and frustrating, but the reader never stops rooting for her. A great coming-of-age story. 

“Stay with Me” by Ayobami Adebayo 
This book is about a Nigerian couple, Yejide and Akin, who fall in love at university and eventually marry. Even though it is expected that Akin will take on multiple wives as per tradition, they decide that polygamy is not for them. However, their ongoing infertility threatens to upend the commitments they made to each other. This book is a great reflection on the lengths we will go to get what we want and what it costs to hold onto what we have. 

“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett 
This book is about two identical twins who grew up together in an African American community in a small southern town. Their lives diverge in adulthood and they lose touch completely.  One lives as an African American woman in the South, while the other passes for white in California. While reading, I kept making comparisons with Nella Larsen’s “Passing,” another favorite of mine (now a movie on Netflix). An examination of what we leave behind to make our own destinies and whether authenticity and happiness are mutually exclusive. 

What Sonia is Reading Now

“The Personal Librarian” by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray 
Belle is J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, hired for her skill and intellect to curate a collection of rare books and manuscripts. But Belle is hiding a secret—she is actually an African American woman passing as a white woman. 

Category: Collection and Materials