The Line Between Fact and Fiction
Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow but raised in Sierra Leone. She lived through the rancorous break-up of her parents and the persecution, and finally execution, of her father, a doctor and opposition leader during the period of violent civil war in that country. She returned to Scotland to live with her mother and, after getting a law degree, worked as a BBC journalist for a decade. Her first book, The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest, is a powerful memoir about a childhood witnessing the upheavals of postcolonial Africa, the consequences of her father’s principled stand against tyranny, and her experience living in exile back in the UK. Today, she’s an essayist and critic — she contributes frequently to The Guardian — and has written three novels.
In The Guardian, she defined, as well as anyone I’ve read, the difference between nonfiction and fiction, and why the two shouldn’t meet.