Thomas Christensen is director of publications at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, which houses one of the world’s most distinguished collections of Asian art. In this capacity, he writes content for and oversees the production of books, a magazine, brochures, posters, exhibition labels and panels, and store products.
Previously, he was executive director and editor-in-chief of Mercury House, a nonprofit independent trade book publisher based in San Francisco; the press issued from ten to twenty books a year. During his tenure, it was nominated for a Carey-Thomas Award for excellence in publishing. Mercury House published new works by Harold Brodkey, José Antonio Burciaga, Carol Emshwiller, Shulamith Hareven, James D. Houston, William Kittredge, and Leonard Michaels, among others, as well as reissues of classic texts, such George Sand’s Horace, Sung Po-jen’s Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Silverado Squatters. It also published the annual Artes, which included the Nobel Lecture.
From 1980–1988 he was a senior editor with North Point Press. He has also been associated with Fiction Network, ZYZZYVA, Jossey-Bass Books, and ComputerLand Magazine. He has been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the Northern California Book Reviewers Association, and PEN West, and has served on the Board of Directors of Small Press Distribution and the Center for the Art of Translation.
With his wife, Carol Christensen, he was co-author of The U.S–Mexican War, a companion book to a national PBS television series, and editor of another PBS companion book, The American Promise. They were also co-editors of The Discovery of America and Other Myths. Christensen’s other books include Bridge to Understanding: The Art and Architecture of San Francisco's Asian Art Museum and New World/New Words: Translating Latin American Literature (Fall 2007).
Christensen has translated many texts, including books by Carlos Fuentes, Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortázar, and others. Probably best-known is Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, co-translated with Carol Christensen. His translation of Ballets Without Music, Without Dancers, Without Anything, by Louis-Ferdinand Céline was a finalist for a PEN translation award
Christensen has also written many critical essays and introductions to books, such as Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll, The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson, and Hieroglyphic Tales by Horace Walpole. He has published widely in anthologies and journals.
Christensen has also worked extensively as a graphic designer and typesetter; some samples of his design work can be seen at www.rightreading.com/design.htm. His websites include www.rightreading.com (print and electronic publishing, and more), www.buriedmirror.com (Mesoamerica and the Maya world), and www.friscovista.com (San Francisciana). He has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, reviewing both translation and creative writing grant applications. He received his BA, MA, and ABD in comparative literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has taught there and in Guatemala and Ecuador. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.