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Becky Cooper: We Keep the Dead Close w/ Paige Williams

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Becky Cooper talks about her new book WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE, in conversation with Paige Williams!

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A Recommended Book from: New York Times * Publisher's Weekly * Kirkus * BookRiot * Booklist * Boston Globe * Goodreads * Town & Country * Refinery29 * CrimeReads * Glamour

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.

Becky Cooper is a former New Yorker editorial staff member and a Senior Fellow at Brandeis' Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting. Her undergraduate thesis, a literary biography of David Foster Wallace, won Harvard's Hoopes Prize, the highest undergraduate award for research and writing. Research for this book was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the International Women's Media Foundation’s Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists. Photo credit: Lily Erlinger

Paige Williams is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Dinosaur Artist, a narrative nonfiction book about the intersection of international fossil smuggling, geopolitics, and how countries protect their scientific resources. Dinosaur Artist was a New York Times Notable Book of 2018, and was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, The Paris Review, Smithsonian, and NPR's Science Friday. Williams won the National Magazine Award for feature writing, and her journalism has been anthologized in numerous Best American volumes, including The Best American Crime Writing and The Best American Magazine Writing. She recently spent two years as the Laventhol/Newsday Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and she has taught at various other universities, including in the Knight Science Journalism program at M.I.T. She has been a fellow of MacDowell, and was a Nieman Fellow, at Harvard.

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