A poet, novelist, scholar, and librettist, Yvette Christianse was born and raised in Johannesburg. She lives in New York and teaches at Barnard College at Columbia University where she is a professor of Africana Studies and English Literature, and Chair of the Consortium for Critical Interdisciplinary Studies.
Her novel Unconfessed was a finalist for the Hemingway/PEN Prize and received a 2007 ForeWord Magazine BEA Award. It was also shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2008, and was nominated for the Ama Ata Aidoo Prize 2010. Her volumes of poetry include Imprendehora and Castaway. Imprendehora was a finalist for the Via Afrika Herman Charles Bosman Prize in 2010 and Castaway was a finalist in the 2001 PEN International Poetry Prize. Her librettos include Vitamin R: A Talent To Survive, music by Rocco de Villiers, performed at Wits University in June 2005. She co-wrote the libretto for Cities of Salt with Rosalind Morris, music by Syrian-born composer Zaid Jabri. This opera, based on the novel by Abdelrahmin Munif was showcased at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in July 2015. Her literary criticism includes the book Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics.
She has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Center and a Visiting Professor at Princeton University’s Center for Creative and Performing Arts. She has also been a National Research Council Fellow at the University of Witwatersrand and a visiting writer at the University of Cape Town. Her poetry has been published in the U.S.A., South Africa, Australia, Canada, France and Italy. She is also the recipient of The Harri Jones Memorial Prize for poetry (Australia).