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Yvonne Vera (1964-2005) was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A prominent African writer of English fiction, Vera published five novels and a collection of short stories during her short career. Her award-winning works have been translated into several languages. Vera graduated from Hillside Teacher's College in 1984, and taught English literature at Njube High School. In 1987, she immigrated to Canada and married John Jose, a Canadian teacher whom she had met while he was teaching at Njube.
Vera attended York University in Toronto, Canada, completing an Hons. BA (English) in 1990, an MA (English) in 1991, and a PhD (English) in 1995. While working on her PhD she taught literature courses at York and a summer creative writing course at Trent University in 1995. Vera’s career as a fiction writer began in earnest while she was still a student at York: she wrote a collection of short stories, entitled “Why Don't You Carve Other Animals?”, as well as the novels “Nehanda” (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize), “Without a Name” and “Under the Tongue.” Her novel “Butterfly Burning” was awarded the German Literature Prize and chosen as one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, both in 2002. “The Stone Virgins” was published in 2002, and was awarded the MacMillan Writers' Prize for Africa. She also edited “Opening Spaces: An Anthology of Contemporary Writing by African Women.” Vera was a keynote speaker and participant at numerous national and international literary festivals.
In the late 1980s Vera was diagnosed HIV-positive, but did not disclose this publicly during her lifetime. Jose and Vera separated in 1995, and she moved back to Zimbabwe. In 1997, Vera became director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. She returned to Canada in 2004, accompanied by Jose, to seek treatment for her worsening condition. She continued to work on her novel “Obedience” during this time, and was awarded the Swedish PEN Tucholsky Prize in 2004. Vera passed away at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on April 7, 2005.
Ericah Gwetai published her daughter's biography, “Petal Thoughts,” in 2008 with Mambo Press in Zimbabwe. “Obedience,” the novel Yvonne Vera was working on at the time of her death, remains unpublished.