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Aminatta Forna

  • British writer
  • Born 1964

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, and four novels: Ancestor Stones (2006), The Memory of Love (2010), The Hired Man (2013) and Happiness (2018). Her novel The Memory of Love was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for "Best Book" in 2011, and was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Forna is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and was, until recently, Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Professor at Williams College in Massachusetts.


Everyone thinks I have a coffee plantation in Sierra Leone, but I have a cashew crop project. I wrote about a woman who owns a coffee plantation! When you are talking about a woman writer coming from a hot country, there's a complete assumption that she is writing about her own life.




Increasingly, there are those of us who write from outside the center, and those are the writers that I'm most interested in because they bring me into worlds that I did not previously know. And that, as a writer, is what I try to create.




I don't have very many little fetishes, but the one I do have is that I like a particular mug to drink out of. It's just a small china cup, and I get very upset if my husband moves it.




Jung Chang was the first person to tell a grand historical, political story through a personal narrative.




Most writers I know go for word counts, and I used to be a journalist, so I guess that's ingrained.




What ultimately happened is that my country had a war. I think it would be extraordinary, as a writer, not to want to write about that.




I was always at heart a novelist and wanted to tell a bigger story, so I wanted to create people who told other kinds of truths than literal truths.




I temporarily became a surgeon for 'Memory of Love'. I spent two weeks in an operating theatre, watching amputations, and I loved it.




No one ever sits you down at age eight and says, 'Aminatta, this is what's happened so far.' You have to work it out for yourself, and by the time you do, it's ancient history to many of the players. We're trying to make sense of the past, so we start to excavate our memories.




I'm a doctor's daughter. I'm not squeamish at all.




I get a very vague idea and - perhaps because I once was a journalist, or perhaps because that's what made me want to be a journalist - I go off and explore it for a bit, rather than mapping out a plot and then filling in the research.




I'm at my desk for about 9:30 A.M., and I stay there all day. Then there's a lot of checking Facebook and eBay and that sort of thing.




I was brought up in a household where you stood up to be counted.




A hospital is a good place to set various dilemmas.




My family's a ruling family.




My childhood ended in this horrible way. I lived in a country where I didn't trust anybody.



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