Little Labors offer a glimpse into an unknown future, a chance for women still unsure about children to see how their lives and minds might change.

New Republic

In paperback at last: Rivka Galchen’s beloved baby bible—slyly hilarious, surprising, and absolutely essential reading for anyone who has ever had, held, or been a baby

Available March 29, 2019

Little Labors

Fiction by Rivka Galchen

In late August a baby was born, or, as it seemed to me, a puma moved into my apartment, a near-mute force…. I had imagined that I was going to meet, at birth, a very sophisticated form of plant life, a form that I would daily deliver to an offsite greenhouse; I would look forward to getting to know the life-form properly later, when she had moved into a sentient kingdom, maybe around age three.

In this enchanted literary miscellany, Rivka Galchen delivers many sparkling observations. That literature has more dogs than babies, and also more abortions. That the tally of children for many notable women writers—Hilary Mantel, Janet Frame, Willa Cather, Jane Bowles, Patricia Highsmith, Elizabeth Bishop, Hannah Arendt, Iris Murdoch, Djuna Barnes, Virginia Woolf, Mavis Gallant—is zero. That the Tale of Genji has no plot, but plenty on the ambiguity of paternity. That orange is the new baby pink. That in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book there is no way of knowing that the empress Teishi is pregnant and ill. That a baby is an ideal vector for a revenge plot. That a baby is a goldmine.

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Little Labors offer a glimpse into an unknown future, a chance for women still unsure about children to see how their lives and minds might change.

New Republic

Little Labors has range. It contemplates both “the royalty of infants” and the uselessness of babies (compared to other animals). It’s rare to find a work of likewise small stature grow so ponderously into such an expansive, magnanimous, and living thing. Like a child — if you want — or a book with meaning.


This essay collection from fiction and science writer Rivka Galchen is not your mother’s motherhood lit. Brief, gemlike reflections on adjusting to life under the rule of a baby daughter (called ‘the puma’) are interwoven with literary and historical references. It’s a book that will ring both familiar and strange.

—Anya Kamenetz, NPR

A highly literary and stylized exploration of motherhood, Little Labors focuses perhaps most on its mysteries. But one thing is clear (and a point Galchen makes with great clarity): “little” and “minor” are often not synonymous.

National Post

As Galchen adeptly demonstrates, the pram in the hall is no longer the sombre enemy of good art—ignoring it is.

—Gavin Tomson, Maisonneuve

Galchen is, for my money, one of the most gifted stylists writing in American English today. Her funniness is otherworldly; she is the reigning champion of litotes, or understatement for effect. Preternaturally deft, Galchen can do almost anything with next to nothing.

Los Angeles Review of Books

Galchen writes like a wide-eyed oracle, in a state of knowing calm, and often plays the observing diarist, noting how the presence of the puma/chicken elicits fresh and baffling reactions from the people she sees daily: her family, a disliked neighbor, the corner drunk. In these short essays, anecdotes, and aphorisms, Galchen views motherhood in equal parts euphoria and dread, and her forays into literature, mostly Japanese, look to unravel the myth of the woman writer, but more so of the mother writer.

The Paris Review

The book is an endearing compilation of social criticism, variously contentious, commonplace, funny and incisive.

Publishers Weekly

Galchen is an elegant and careful writer.

—Willa Paskin, Slate

A book of extraordinary savour, with nearly every sentence calling for an emphatic underline.

—Naomi Skwarna, National Post

An engaging mind offers reflections on being a mother, being a writer, and having a baby.

Kirkus Reviews

Galchen does something more profound than tackle motherhood; she utterly reinvents and reanimates the subject.

—Christopher Bollen, Interview Magazine

Galchen is to fiction what Ferran Adrià is to gastronomy, serving up the whimsical, the startling, and the revelatory in the guise of the delightfully familiar.

—Garth Risk Hallberg, The Millions

Galchen has a knack for taking a thread and fraying it, so that a sentence never quite ends up where you expect.

—James Wood, The New Yorker

A brilliant young writer.


To read Rivka Galchen is to enter a wonderland where the bizarre and the mundane march in unlikely lockstep.

—Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post

Galchen’s sentences catch your attention and hold it with a tight fist: Delicious.

—Alan Cheuse, NPR