Yara Rodrigues Fowler, 29, is a Brazilian-British novelist and activist from London. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times young writer of the year award for her debut, Stubborn Archivist, cited as “a formally inventive novel of growing up between cultures”. That same year, the Financial Times named her one of “the planet’s 30 most exciting young people” after she was credited with boosting youth turnout in the 2017 general election, when she co-created a bot that encouraged Tinder users to register to vote. Fowler’s new novel, there are more things, turns on the political awakening of Melissa and Catarina, two London flatmates with roots in Brazil.
What drew you to write about millennials in the period around the Brexit vote?
I was thinking about what happens if you’re born just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In England, when I grew up, everyone was like, things can only get better; there was a Labour government, people were becoming less poor, and it was similar in Brazil when the Workers’ party came to power, the first leftwing government ever, really. What happens when you grow up believing everything’s going to be all right, only to see how that period of neoliberalism has actually taken us to a time where fascism is rising and the planet’s burning?
It’s sometimes said that politics and fiction don’t mix…
I wasn’t worried about writing a political novel – every novel is political – but I was asking myself how I could really agitate the reader. I heard a podcast with Sebastian Faulks talking about this fan letter he got from a woman who said: “I read Birdsong and the sex scenes made me realise I’d never known true love or sexual pleasure and so I left my husband of 20 years.” He was like, whoa. It made me wonder what it would be like if you wrote a piece of fiction that made people feel so full of revolutionary possibility and desire that they want to take to the streets, not necessarily for what might be achieved in their own lifetime, but for generations to come.