About Tom Christensen

The "official" short bio is beneath the rule below. Briefly, I'm an author, editor, illustrator, translator, graphic designer, photographer, webmaster, Mayanist, typehead, etc., and a one-time caterer, cherry picker, delivery boy, dish washer, disk jockey, driver, janitor, jellybean maker, laborer, mattress salesman, photographer, poster salesman, railyard laborer, Santa Claus manager, teacher, tobacco cutter ...


Wrong Tom Christensen? See more Toms here.


River of Ink: Literature, History, Art, a selection of thirty essays on various subjects, was published by Counterpoint Press in December 2014. Landscape with Yellow Birds, a translation of selected poems spanning the career of José Ángel Valente, was published by Archipelago Press in 2013. 1616: The World in Motion, also from Counterpoint, is a global overview of a single year in the age of early maritime globalism. Both Landscape with Yellow Birds and 1616 were finalists for Northern California Book Reviewers Awards, in the categories of translation and general nonfiction respectively. 1616 was named one of the ten best history books of its season by Publishers Weekly.

Previous books include New World/New Words: Recent Writing from the Americas, from the Center for the Art of Translation; The U. S.–Mexican War, a companion book to a national PBS television series; The Discovery of America, an anthology of writings on the discovery and conquest; and Bridge to Understanding: The Art and Architecture of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, which commemorated the museum’s move to Civic Center. With Carol Christensen I also ghosted a PBS companion book, The American Promise.

I have written critical essays and introductions to such books as Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll, The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson, and Hieroglyphic Tales by Horace Walpole, and have published essays in many books, magazines, newspapers, and journals. Some of these are collected in River of Ink.


Besides the poems of Valente, my other translations include books by such authors as Laura Esquivel, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, Alejo Carpentier, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Ballets Without Music, Without Dancers, Without Anything by Louis-Ferdinand Céline was a finalist for the PEN America West translation award. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (translated with Carol Christensen) was a national best-seller. I received a special award for dedication to translation from the American Literary Translators Association.


As a publisher, I learned the ropes while serving as senior editor at North Point Press. In the 1990s I was executive editor of Mercury House, an independent literary press. During my tenure we were nominated for a Carey-Thomas Award for excellence in publishing. I was the main editor for many years at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and continue to edit and ghostwrite on a free-lance basis. I am currently a contributing editor to Catamaran Literary Reader.


As a graphic designer I have designed and typeset a large number of books, including several catalogues of museum art exhibitions. Here is a list of fifty books designed, and here is a detailed book design case study. Slideshows of spreads from River of Ink and 1616 are also available and represent some of my most recent design work.


The many panels I've served on include the National Endowment for the Arts, for which I reviewed translation and creative writing grant applications.

I received my BA, MA, and ABD in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carol and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we are no longer constantly chasing deer out of the garden now that I have constructed a deer-proof fence.



Copyright © Thomas Christensen, 2013