Rachel Elliott Rigolino was born in the South Bronx and attended high school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in English Literature and later earned an MA from SUNY New Paltz.  Since 1993, she has been a member of the English Department at SUNY New Paltz and currently teaches first-year composition as well as courses in the novel and short story.

She is married–with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law–and lives with her husband, Joseph, and her Lhasa Apso, Norbu, in Highland, NY.