Yara Rodrigues Fowler, the author of Stubborn Archivist, is a British Brazilian novelist who grew up in South London. Her contemporary voice and experimental linguistic style have already been marking her roaring entrance into the literary world and through her work, she explores topics such as diaspora, bilingualism, merging and transcending cultures, identity formation, gender norms, and sexuality. She was named one of The Observer’s new faces of fiction 2019 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. She was one of the authors the British Council supported at Dhaka Lit Fest 2019. She conducted three workshops during British Council’s Dhaka Lit Fest outreach programmes at Chattogram, involving the students of Asian University for Women, International Islamic University, and a group of teachers at the British Council office in Chattogram. Recently, she gave an interview with the British Council.
BC: What inspired you to become a writer?
Yara: I started writing as a child. I was greatly inspired from reading works by Jane Austen and Zadie Smith and watching a lot of Disney movies. I also really liked listening to the stories told to me by my grandmas and aunties. My dad read all the Harry Potters out loud to us when we were younger too. Therefore, I have always thought of books as having an oral life.
BC: Could you share with us about your literary works and your journey so far?
Yara: For Stubborn Archivist, I wrote a first draft that was much shorter. I finished that in 2016. My agent took it out to publishers, and they loved the voice but wanted it to be a normal book-length. I wrote the novel in all sorts of places. On the coast in São Paulo, sitting on airport trolleys, on the London Underground, in my local library. I was working full time and I became very burnt out balancing the two. I'm working on my second book right now. This time it's going to be a longer book with two protagonists and a much larger cast of characters. The story here moves between the present-day London and Brazil in the dictatorship era. For my second novel I have received the John C Lawrence Award from the Society of Authors.
BC: How were you associated with Dhaka Lit Fest?
Yara: I was invited to attend DLF by Ahsan, who I met at a reading in London. I loved coming to Bangladesh. A personal highlight for me was meeting the students at the festival and talking to them about literature and Dhaka's cultural heritage. At the Dhaka Lit Festival, I have been in different panels, talking about various topics – identity, fiction, resistance.
BC: How would you describe the workshops you conducted for the British Council?
Yara:I had to take three workshops for the British Council in Chattogram, all of which were different versions of a workshop called 'Creative Writing / Stubborn Archiving.' The first workshop was at the Asian University for Women, followed by one at the International Islamic University and then to a group of school teachers at the British Council.Part of my practice was to have us all sit in a circle. We discussed what an archive was, what could make it stubborn, government censorship during dictatorship-era Brazil and my own collaborations with my mum for Coragem Alfredo. At the end student began their own creative writing (archiving!) exercise remembering their own family stories.
BC: How was your overall experience in Bangladesh?
Yara: This was my first visit to Bangladesh and it was great experience for me. The workshop participants really connected to the workshop and in turn they taught me things I had never considered before. Attending the Universities in Chattogram taught me a lot of the culture there. I'm grateful to the British Council for the opportunity. Cyclone Bulbul was a concern for me as it took place during the same time of the festival and was supposed to hit areas in the South of Bangladesh such as Chattogram. However, I'm glad it did not stop us in the end.