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We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence

"'I have tried to be honest about the way in which telling Jane's story blurred into a vehicle for telling my own. I've tried to be honest about the way in which I am a part of the world I'm studying. About the biases I had going into the story that shaped the woman I understood Jane to have been. ... I tried to disentangle myth from fact, and to study the iterations of these myths for what they revealed about the storytellers ... But for what it's worth, after having chastised us all enough for the act of speculation, I bare my bias and offer you my best guess of what happened to Jane the night she was killed.'


Becky Cooper builds We Keep the Dead Close from a ghost story to gossip to a legend into as much truth as she can find. Much like Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Cooper's exhaustive research reveals as much of the case of Jane Britton's death as her own life. It rattled me, gave me comfort, pissed me off, and consumed me. What a book."

Liz B.

See all my recommendations »

Author Becky Cooper
Publisher Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date 2021-09-14
Section New Titles - Paperback / US History / All Staff Suggestions / Nonfiction Suggestions / Liz B.
Type New
Format Paperback
ISBN 9781538746851

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Named One of The Best Books of 2020 by NPR's Fresh Air * Publishers Weekly * Marie Claire * Redbook * Vogue * Kirkus Reviews * Book Riot * Bustle

A Recommended Book by The New York Times * The Washington Post * Booklist * The Boston Globe * Amazon * Goodreads * Buzzfeed * Town & Country * Refinery29 * BookRiot * CrimeReads * Glamour * Popsugar * PureWow * Shondaland

Dive into a "tour de force of investigative reporting" (Ron Chernow): a "searching, atmospheric and ultimately entrancing" (Patrick Radden Keefe) true crime narrative of an unsolved 1969 murder at Harvard and an "exhilarating and seductive" (Ariel Levy) narrative of obsession and love for a girl who dreamt of rising among men.

You have to remember, he reminded me, that Harvard is older than the U.S. government. You have to remember because Harvard doesn't let you forget.

1969: the height of counterculture and the year universities would seek to curb the unruly spectacle of student protest; the winter that Harvard University would begin the tumultuous process of merging with Radcliffe, its all-female sister school; and the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious twenty-three-year-old graduate student in Harvard's Anthropology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President J. Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment. Forty years later, Becky Cooper a curious undergrad, will hear the first whispers of the story. In the first telling the body was nameless. The story was this: a Harvard student had had an affair with her professor, and the professor had murdered her in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology because she'd threatened to talk about the affair. Though the rumor proves false, the story that unfolds, one that Cooper will follow for ten years, is even more complex: a tale of gender inequality in academia, a 'cowboy culture' among empowered male elites, the silencing effect of institutions, and our compulsion to rewrite the stories of female victims. We Keep the Dead Close is a memoir of mirrors, misogyny, and murder. It is at once a rumination on the violence and oppression that rules our revered institutions, a ghost story reflecting one young woman's past onto another's present, and a love story for a girl who was lost to history.

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