Aminatta Forna is a writer and author of The Devil that Danced on the Water, a memoir of her dissident father. Her most recent book Ancestor Stones, a novel, was published in July 2006 and tells the story of the lives of four sister, daughters of a wealthy West African plantation owner. Published in 2002, The Devil that Danced on the Water was runner-up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003 serialised as 'Book of the Week' on BBC Radio and extracted in the Sunday Times newspaper in the UK. In the United States it was selected for the Barnes & Noble new writers Discovery series. Aminatta returned to Sierra Leone to film a documentary series 'Africa Unmasked,' which examined many of the themes of her recent book. The series aired on Channel 4 in November 2002. A former BBC reporter, she reported and presented on various politics, current affairs and arts programmes between 1989 and 1999. She is a contributor to several newspapers including the Independent, The Observer, the Sunday Times and the Evening Standard. She has acted as a judge for the MacMillan African Writer's Prize in 2003, the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2004 and the Caine Prize for Africa 2005 and 2006. She sits on the board of the Caine Prize and also Index on Censorship.
Forna saw her father for the last time on July 30, 1974; she was 10 years old. In this harrowing memoir-cum-detective story, journalist Forna searches for the truth about her father's execution in Sierra Leone after his treason conviction for allegedly attempting a coup upon the government in which he had once been a cabinet minister. Mohamed Forna, a British-educated doctor and activist in what was, in the 1960s, a fledgling democracy extricating itself from British colonialist rule, resigned from what had become a dictatorship rife with corruption and chaos. The consequences of that resignation culminated in eight executions and precipitated the descent into anarchy of Africa's poorest nation. Forna writes with a compelling mix of distance and anguish, intent on explaining her father's death and reclaiming his memory. Lush descriptions of her idyllic childhood provide eerie counterpoint to chilling depictions of the hell Sierra Leone had become upon her return in recent years, a place where bands of child warriors, hacking off limbs as both punishment and warning, have created a mutilated populace. The poverty her father tried to fight remains the only constant in the war-torn land. A harsh critic of her father's executioners, Forna nevertheless equivocates on the dictatorships that have wreaked havoc throughout Africa, querying her own identity as a diaspora mixed-race Afro-European. Reminiscent of Isabelle Allende's House of the Spirits, Forna's work is a powerfully and elegantly written mix of complex history, riveting memoir and damning expos. Agent, David Godwin. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Forna's father, Mohamed, was a leading politician in newly liberated Sierra Leone but landed in jail as a prisoner of conscience when democracy turned to dictatorship. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
'This is a book of quite extraordinary power and beauty. Aminatta Forna has excavated not only her memory but the hidden recesses of the heart.' Fergal Keane 'An extraordinary and gripping story!Aminatta Forna's book glows with compassion. A modern classic, of which her courageous father would have been proud.' Peter Gowin, author of 'Mukiwa' 'An engrossing account of pain, love and discovery that had the capacity not only to make me understand but also to move me to tears' Gillian Slovo, author of 'Every Secret Thing' 'I had tears in my eyes almost the whole way through, although it is the least sentimental of books!Aminatta Forna manages, quite brilliantly, to evoke not only all the honour and pity that is in her family's story, but its beauty and tenderness too.' Katie Hickman, author of 'Daughters of Britannia'