#AWP17 Featured Presenter Q&A with Aminatta Forna

AWP | November 2016

Event Title: The Ghosts of History: and the Secrets They Tell, Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts
Description: Three master storytellers delve deeply into the inner workings of their characters—or their own life—revealing layers of personal, familial, and cultural histories as the world passes from generation to generation. Whether haunted by uncertain destinies, ancient silences, or the wiliness of love, these writers each bear witness to the secret whisperings of these ghosts of history and, with their words, grind a lens through which we can see the world anew.
Participants: Aminatta Forna, Angela Flournoy, and Andre Dubus III
Location: Ballroom A, Washington Convention Center, Level Three
Date & Time: Saturday, February 11, 2017, 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.        

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Everyone should read or reread this book the year of it's twenty-first anniversary. It is a prediction of what is taking place in the USA right now. 

Q: What advice can you offer to writers who must navigate between the solitude or artistic work and our nation’s politics and culture at this moment?
A: We must respond to what is happening in the US and in the world; it is the artist's task and our responsibility. We need to witness and we need to name events for exactly what they are. It's time to stand up. Solitude can wait. 

Q: If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP17, who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: I was invited to give the inaugural Nadine Gordimer lecture in South Africa last year. I spoke about Gordimer's notion of fiction as an act of witness. When I first read her essay “Inward Testimony” I found the aesthetic and intellectual framework and the language for what I was engaged in. I'd talk to her about what it meant to commit a life to a single artistic and intellectual endeavor in the fight against oppression. 

Q: If you’ve been to Washington, DC before, what places do you recommend our attendees visit?
A: I love the canal path that begins in Georgetown and follows the canal, which in turn runs parallel to the Potomac, for as many miles as you wish to walk west.


Aminatta FornaAminatta Forna is the author of three novels, The Hired ManThe Memory of Love, and Ancestor Stones, and the critically acclaimed memoir, The Devil that Danced on the Water. Her fiction has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award and the PEN Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and has been shortlisted for the Neustadt Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the IMPAC Award, the Warwick Prize, and nominated for the European Prize for Fiction. Her memoir was serialized on BBC Radio and in the Sunday Times newspaper. Forna is currently a Lannan Visiting Chair at Georgetown University.

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