Country: Sierra Leone/ Scotland/ New Zealand
Why We Love Her: Aminatta is a writer who reconceptualises identity in a way that is appropriate for the modern African, today’s world and our often nomadic lives. She expands on her own identity here in this excellent essay for The Nation:
If we should, as I argue, separate the transnational identity from the hyphenated identity, I would say the difference lies in a few specifics. The hyphenated identity is created defensively, in opposition to a dominant culture that does not fully accept its hyphenated members, who typically belong to immigrant or minority groups. The transnational may be an immigrant or have immigrant parents or parents from two nations, but she crucially chooses to retain links with both, often moving between the two. – Aminatta Forna, “Your Nationalism Can’t Contain Me”
This nuance is present in her fictional work which is often complex in style, with shifting timelines and multiple voices taking over the narrative. She is an incredibly acclaimed writer. Her spellbinding novel about a obsessive love, friendship and war, 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. Notably in 2014 she was awarded the Windham–Campbell Literature Prize.
Her most recent novel, shows that Africans don’t only write about African issues and our continent. She was widely praised for her accurate depiction in The Hired Man of the events and trauma of the Yugoslavian genocide, which she explored through the lens of a small town in Croatia.
“How differently we behave in other peoples countries … no sooner than we think we can get away with it, we do as we please. It doesn’t require the breakdown of a social order. It takes a six-hour plane flight.”
― Aminatta Forna,
“There’s something uncomfortable about looking at pictures of your parents at a time when they made each other happy.”
― Aminatta Forna,
Aminatta’s non-fiction is incredibly moving and personal as well. She is a seasoned documentarian, working on films for the BBC about Africa as well as Girl Rising which tells the stories of 10 girls growing up in 10 different countries. Her autobiography, The Devil That Danced On Water chronicled her peripatetic childhood, her search for the truths hidden in her past and high-level conspiracies within the Sierra Leonean government.
“Yet what use against the deceit of a state are the memories of a child?”
― Aminatta Forna