Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna
Aminatta Forna at the awards ceremony of the LiBeraturpreis 2008 for her book "Ancestor Stones".
Forna in Frankfurt am Main, 2008
Born1964 (age 54–55)
Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland
OccupationAuthor, academic, commentator
Alma materUniversity College London
Notable worksThe Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Quest (2003);
Ancestor Stones (2006);
The Memory of Love (2010)
Notable awardsCommonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award 2011;

Aminatta Forna, OBE (born 1964) is a Scottish and Sierra Leonean writer. She is the author of a memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water,[1][2] and four novels: Ancestor Stones (2006),[3] The Memory of Love (2010),[4] The Hired Man (2013)[5][6] and Happiness (2018). Her novel The Memory of Love was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for "Best Book" in 2011,[7][8] and was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.[9] Forna is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and was, until recently, Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College in Massachusetts.[10][11] She is currently Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.[12]

On 7 March 2014, Forna was announced as the recipient of the 2014 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize (Fiction).[13][14][15]

In 2015 Forna was part of the judging panel which awarded the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award to Yiyun Li.[16]

The finalists for the 2016 Neustadt International Prize for Literature were announced in May 2015.[17][18] The list included Forna and writers, poets and playwrights from around the world. The majority of the finalists were women writers.[17][19]

Forna was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to literature.[20][21][22] Forna is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, sits on the advisory committee for the Royal Literary Fund and the Caine Prize for African Writing, has been a judge on several high-profile prize panels, including the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction[23] and continues to champion the work of up-and-coming diverse authors.[23][24][25][26] In 2019, the Scotiabank Giller Prize announced that Forna was one of the judges for the 2019 prize, an award of Cdn $140,000 for a Canadian writer.[27]

In March 2019, Forna's Happiness was shortlisted for the European Literature Prize, and in April 2019 was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) Ondaatje Prize and for the Jhalak Prize[28][29][30][31]

Commenting on her work in a wide-ranging interview with Keija Parssinen in World Literature Today, Forna said: "I think what novelists do is bring into relief something that’s been hiding in plain sight ... describing what it might look like from elsewhere, the view from elsewhere." [32]


Aminatta Forna was born in Bellshill, Scotland,[33] in 1964 to a Sierra Leonean father, Mohamed Forna, and a Scottish mother, Maureen Christison. When Forna was six months old the family travelled to Sierra Leone, where Mohamed Forna worked as a physician. He later became involved in politics and entered government, only to resign citing a growth in political violence and corruption. Between 1970 and 1973 he was imprisoned and declared an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience. Mohamed Forna was hanged on charges of treason in 1975.[34][35] The events of Forna's childhood and her investigation into the conspiracy surrounding her father's death are the subject of the memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water.[36]

Forna studied law at University College London and was a Harkness Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2013 she assumed a post as Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.[37]

Between 1989 and 1999 Forna worked for the BBC, both in radio and television, as a reporter and documentary maker in the spheres of arts and politics. She is also known for her Africa documentaries: Through African Eyes (1995),[38] Africa Unmasked (2002)[39] and The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu (2009).[40] Forna is also a board member of the Royal National Theatre[41] and a judge for The Man Booker International Prize 2013.[42][43]

Forna is the founder of The Rogbonko Village Project, a charity begun as an initiative to build a school in a village in Sierra Leone.[44][45]

Aminatta Forna is married to the furniture designer Simon Westcott and lives in south-east London.[46]

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