Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna is an award-winning Scottish and Sierra Leonean author. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was made OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours 2017.

Aminatta Forna was born in Bellshill, Scotland. She was raised in Sierra Leone and Great Britain and spent periods of her childhood in Iran, Thailand, and Zambia.

Forna studied law at University College London and was a Harkness Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

Forna worked for the BBC, in radio and television, as a reporter and documentary maker in arts and politics. She also presented television documentaries, including The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu (BBC, 2009) and Girl Rising (CNN, 2013).

Her essays have appeared in Freeman’s, Granta, The Guardian, LitHub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Observer, and Vogue.

Her published works include The Devil that Danced on the Water (2002), a memoir of her dissident father and her country, Ancestor Stones (2006), a novel set in West Africa, The Memory of Love (2010), The Hired Man (2013), The Angel of Mexico City (2014), and Happiness (2018).

Forna foremost gained serious literary attention for her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water, in which she investigates the murder of her father, Mohamed Forna, a rising star in Sierra Leone’s fledgling democracy.

Aminatta Forna debuted with the novel Ancestor Stones, which encompasses a sweeping view of Africa in the 20th Century. The narrative unfolds by following the journey of Abi, who has recently backed to Africa from England. Alongside her, the book also delves into the lives of her four aunts, whose individual paths reflect the profound transformations and disruptions brought about by historical events.

Happiness was a finalist for the Ondaatje Prize and the Jhalak Prize and was nominated for the European Prize for Fiction.

About Happiness Salman Rushdie says, “Aminatta Forna expertly weaves her characters’ stories, past and present, in and out of the larger story of London, which becomes as rich a character as the human beings and, indeed, the foxes; and she makes us care deeply about them all, the foxes, the people, and the city. A terrific novel.”

Her latest book, an essay collection, The Window Seat: Notes from a Life in Motion (2021), crosses both literal and philosophical, our relationship with the natural world and the stories that we tell ourselves.

Aminatta was a judge for the International Man Booker, the Giller Prize, the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, and the Caine Prize.

She also won a Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Liberaturpreis in Germany, and the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize.

Now, Aminatta is the Director of the Lannan Center at Georgetown University and a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

Photo credit: aminattaforna.com
years of life: 1964 present
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