Rivka Galchen (born April 19, 1976) is a Canadian-American writer and physician. Her first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, was published in 2008. She currently is an adjunct professor in the writing division of Columbia University's School of Art.
Galchen was born in Toronto, Canada. When she was an infant, her parents relocated to the United States, where she has lived ever since. She lived in Norman, Oklahoma from 1982 to 1994, where her father, Tzvi Gal-Chen, was a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, and her mother was a computer programmer at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Her parents, of Jewish descent, had emigrated from Israel before her birth.
Galchen began attending Princeton University in 1994, where she was an English major, and applied in her sophomore year to an early-admissions program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She received her M.D. from Mount Sinai in 2003, with a focus in psychiatry. After completing medical school, she completed an MFA at Columbia University, where she was a Robert Bingham fellow. She was a 2006 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers.
She is a recipient of the 2010/2011 Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin.
Galchen married Aaron Harnly in 2001, whom she met at Princeton University as a sophomore. They presently live in New York, where he recently completed a Ph.D from Columbia University.
Galchen has written for several national magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper's, the New York Times and The Believer.
Galchen's first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances, features a character with her father's name, Tzvi Gal-Chen; the character is a professor of meteorology and a fellow of the (fictional) Royal Academy of Meteorology, a literary move that was described as an "awfully risky" but successful invocation of "triple unreliability" by critic James Wood of The New Yorker.
Atmospheric Disturbances was represented by the William Morris Agency, which reportedly chose it as one of two books to generate "buzz" for at the 2007 London Book Fair. The novel was purchased by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and published in May 2008. The novel received a significant amount of attention for a debut novel, including favorable reviews on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and by critic James Wood of The New Yorker. Wood wrote that the novel was best understood as "a contribution to the Hamsun-Bernhard tradition of tragicomic first-person unreliability." The novel was named as a finalist for the Mercantile Library's 2008 John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, and for the Canadian Writers' Trust's 2008 Fiction Prize. On 20 October 2008, the novel was named as a finalist for the 2008 Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most prestigious literary prizes.
As of 2009, Galchen teaches writing at Columbia University. She is a Contributing Editor at Harper's Magazine.
In 2010 Galchen was chosen by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 American writers under the age of 40. Her short story "The Entire Northern Side Was Covered with Fire" was published in "Summer Fiction" issue of the same magazine (June 14 & 21, 2010).