Virtual Event: Becky Cooper
We Keep the Dead Close:
A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence
in conversation with PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE
November 13, 2020
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes award-winning writer BECKY COOPER—author of Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers—for a discussion of her latest book, We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence. She will be joined in conversation by PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE, staff writer at the New Yorker and author of the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $3 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of We Keep the Dead Close on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About We Keep the Dead Close
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 23-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.
Praise for We Keep the Dead Close
"We Keep the Dead Close is part true crime, part memoir, part re-creation of the vast, compelling, disappointing investigative process. . . While the book is wide-ranging, there are no purposeless tangents. Instead, we are given a portrait of the kind of world Jane lived and died in, granting us both an understanding of Jane and the myths that her murder created." —Shelf Awareness
"I defy any reader to resist the hypnotic power of this Harvard whodunit. In a tour de force of investigative reporting, Becky Cooper guides us through a maze of academic politics and personal intrigue, her sleuthing laced with uncommon sensitivity and insight. Even as it engages us emotionally, this stirring narrative, with its heart-stopping finale, forces us to ponder the very nature of historical truth. A stunning achievement." —Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
"A brilliantly constructed, wholly captivating investigation of an unsolved 1969 murder. We Keep The Dead Close has it all: Cats, capes, Ivy League politics, archeological excavation, an ax in the turtle tank. Best of all it has at its center a subtle, stubborn sleuth who reminds us not to confuse our facts with our stories. Stories are dangerous, Becky Cooper warns us, as well she should: This one is going to cost you at least one night's sleep." —Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Witches
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