Different Worlds of Trauma
Aminatta Forna tackles trauma, although not in the way that most western readers are used to dealing with trauma’s effects.
Her previous book, Happiness, brings a different explanation to how different cultures deal with trauma. The problem, rather than the trauma itself, is societal expectations of trauma. Those who expect a trauma-free life as a societal norm are far more affected, and for longer, than those who accept that trauma is a part of life.
As her character Attila says in Happiness, “Our African expectations of life are more modest than the Europeans. What I mean to say is that the script of life for most of us is, dare I say, a great deal more fluid. In other words, we know shit happens.“
Forna herself is no stranger to extremely traumatic events. The daughter of a physician from Sierra Leone, she grew up in the UK, Sierra Leone, Iran, Zambia, and Thailand. Her father, Mohamed Forna, entered into politics in the late 1960s and was appointed Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance. Then he ran afoul of the ruling government and was arrested and hanged in 1975. Forna was ten-years-old a the time.
She deals with her father’s life and death in her nonfiction book The Devil That Danced On the Water. And she delves into other trauma themes in subsequent books about Sierra Leone; Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love.
In her book The Hired Man, she visits the same themes, but this time against the backdrop of the 90s War and its aftermath in Croatia.
Life is not perfect and things happen, but we’ve become over protective and fearful of adversity because of what it might lead to. We need to approach life with a bit more fortitude. Personally, I don’t know how you become fully human unless you have faced adversity.