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Stubborn Archivist

Stubborn Archivist

by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
Stubborn Archivist

Stubborn Archivist

by Yara Rodrigues Fowler


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Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award * Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize * Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 

“I read Stubborn Archivist in a ravenous gulp. It’s stunning: so articulate about what it means to live between two languages and countries, tenderly unraveling the knots of unbelonging.”

—Olivia Laing, author of The Lonely City and Crudo

For fans of Chemistry and Normal People: A mesmerizing and witty debut novel about a young woman growing up between two disparate cultures, and the singular identity she finds along the way

But where are you really from? 

When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.

In Stubborn Archivist, a young British Brazilian woman from South London navigates growing up between two cultures and into a fuller understanding of her body, relying on signposts such as history, family conversation, and the eyes of the women who have shaped her—her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Our stubborn archivist takes us through first love and loss, losing and finding home, trauma and healing, and various awakenings of sexuality and identity. Shot through the novel are the narrator's trips to Brazil, sometimes alone, often with family, where she accesses a different side of herself—one, she begins to realize, that is as much of who she is as anything else.

A hypnotic and bold debut, Stubborn Archivist is as singular as its narrator; a novel you won't soon forget. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358006084
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 682,942
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

YARA RODRIGUES FOWLER was born in 1992. She grew up in a British Brazilian household in Balham, South London, where she is still based. She has an BA from Oxford University and an MA from University College London, and is a trustee of Latin American Women’s Aid. Stubborn Archivist is her first book.

Read an Excerpt

THE BIG HOUSE appeared from behind conker trees on a quiet street by the common.

It’s late Victorian


These houses were built after the construction of the railway as they turned the farmland into the suburbs


They had come just the two of them, for one of the first times since the baby was born they were out together.

Richard opened the iron gate and stepped into the front garden. It was regrowing untidy with the spring.

He turned to his wife. We’ll get rid of this gravel. I could plant a ceanothus here by the path.

Isadora looked at him. Which is that?

It has those tiny flowers that fall like grey blue dust onto the floor. Richard spread his arms—Over time it can grow into a large bush.

She nodded. It is very nice that one.

Richard stood inside the carved brickwork arch at the front of the house. He looked at the front door. He looked at Isadora.

She touched the morose little bird depicted in the off-brown stained glass of the door.

She looked at Richard.

We can get rid of this, no?

He paused.

It’s depressing. I want bright yellow birds or soft orange squares or something.

He looked at the bird and then he looked at her.

She laughed at him—I’m serious Richard.

Inside, he ran his hand along the ribbed wall of the corridor, taking slow strides towards the back of the house.

Isadora stood behind him in the corridor. She regretted its closed door presence. Unlike her husband, she felt no secret thrill at its twee Victorian geometries—the cracked diamond
tile floor, the textured wallpaper, the high up faraway light fixtures.

To their left there was a large bay window living room facing the street, and behind that a dining room facing the garden. Richard gestured to the second door—We could turn this into a TV room, or a playroom or a library.

But—she called her husband’s name—but Richard, I don’t see the point of such a big house.

He paused.

I like the little flat. We are just three after all. We don’t need a big house like this.

He turned to face her.

I like the little flat. She approached him and put her hand on his arm—What’s wrong with the little flat?

He frowned at her, and then he smiled. But what happens when your mum comes to stay, and your father? And don’t you want Ana Paula to have her own room and not sleep on the sofa and be woken up when we go to work?

Isadora was quiet.

And eventually the baby will want her own space.

Isadora frowned.

It’s only down the road. It’s not a big change.

She put two arms around him. I know this. You are right. I just like the flat.

And then her husband said—Isadora this is a good house. Look.

They walked down the corridor to the dark kitchen that needed new cabinets. On the back wall there was a door and a set of concrete steps.

Richard opened the door.

Look at this garden.

Isadora looked at it.

Hot sunlight crossed its long and low sunk rectangle through the alley gaps between the other houses. It was full of knee height nettles and other grass green plants she didn’t know the names of. At the back of the garden, by the fence, there was a row of lime trees.

Isadora was quiet.

Then she said—We could have a dog, Richard.

Her husband frowned.

Just a small dog, Richard. Woof woofwoof.

They were quiet.

Richard said—Where I grew up we had a huge garden. This is small but it’s good for London.

Isadora nodded. At her parents’ house Isadora had not had this sort of garden either.


Isadora chewed Richard’s house words in her cheeks —

skirting board

mantel piece







wallpaper paste

When she had thought of Europe, Isadora had always imagined herself walking into an open plan room with glass for walls.

That night in the flat, while the baby was asleep, Isadora whispered—

Richard did I ever tell you about my mother’s yellow house?


Oh. Isadora yawned.

Richard yawned.

My dad said he will put a pool there, for the baby.

That is very kind of him.

We could go at Christmas.

Christmas at the beach!


I would certainly enjoy that—

The baby made a noise.


Of course, they bought it. Even in 1992 with the derelict house next door and the late night activity on the common it was all their savings and a mortgage it would take them twenty years to pay off, but they bought it. As Richard had said, this was a good house.

Both of them had been brought up to buy a house. Go to medical school, and then buy a house like we bought this house, their parents had told them.

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