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What Happened to Paula: An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood
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Published:
W. W. Norton & Company 2021
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Description

A CrimeReads Best True Crime Book of 2021

A People Best Book of Summer

A New York Times Most Anticipated Book of the Summer



A riveting investigation into a cold case asks how much control women have over their bodies and the direction of their lives.


July 1970. Eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling left her house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four months later, her remains were discovered just beyond the mouth of a culvert overlooking the Cedar River. Her homicide has never been solved.


Fifty years cold, Paula's case had been mostly forgotten when journalist Katherine Dykstra began looking for answers. A woman was dead. Why had no one been held responsible? How could the powers that be, how could a community, have given up? Tracing Paula's final days, Dykstra uncovers a girl whose exultant personality was at odds with the Midwest norms of the late 1960s. A girl who was caught between independence and youthful naivete, between a love that defied racially segregated Cedar Rapids and her complicated but enduring love for her mother, and between a possible pregnancy and the freedoms that had been promised by the women's liberation movement but that still had little practical bearing on actual lives. The more Dykstra learned about the circumstances of Paula's life, the more parallels she saw in the lives of the women who knew Paula and the women in Paula's family, in the lives of the women in Dykstra's own family, and even in her own life.


Captivating and expertly crafted from interviews with Paula's family and friends, police reports, and on-the-scene investigation, What Happened to Paula is part true crime story, part memoir, a timely and powerful look at gender, autonomy, and the cost of being a woman.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
06/15/2021
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393651997
ASIN:
B08L6YYFVN
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Katherine Dykstra. (2021). What Happened to Paula: An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Katherine Dykstra. 2021. What Happened to Paula: An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Katherine Dykstra, What Happened to Paula: An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood. W. W. Norton & Company, 2021.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Katherine Dykstra. What Happened to Paula: An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood. W. W. Norton & Company, 2021. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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shortDescription

A CrimeReads Best True Crime Book of 2021
A People Best Book of Summer
A New York Times Most Anticipated Book of the Summer

A riveting investigation into a cold case asks how much control women have over their bodies and the direction of their lives.

July 1970. Eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling left her house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four months later, her remains were discovered just beyond the mouth of a culvert overlooking the Cedar River. Her homicide has never been solved.

Fifty years cold, Paula's case had been mostly forgotten when journalist Katherine Dykstra began looking for answers. A woman was dead. Why had no one been held responsible? How could the powers that be, how could a community, have given up? Tracing Paula's final days, Dykstra uncovers a girl whose exultant personality was at odds with the Midwest norms of the late 1960s. A girl who was caught between independence and youthful naivete, between a love...

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True
title
What Happened to Paula
fullDescription

A CrimeReads Best True Crime Book of 2021
A People Best Book of Summer
A New York Times Most Anticipated Book of the Summer

A riveting investigation into a cold case asks how much control women have over their bodies and the direction of their lives.

July 1970. Eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling left her house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Four months later, her remains were discovered just beyond the mouth of a culvert overlooking the Cedar River. Her homicide has never been solved.

Fifty years cold, Paula's case had been mostly forgotten when journalist Katherine Dykstra began looking for answers. A woman was dead. Why had no one been held responsible? How could the powers that be, how could a community, have given up? Tracing Paula's final days, Dykstra uncovers a girl whose exultant personality was at odds with the Midwest norms of the late 1960s. A girl who was caught between independence and youthful naivete, between a love that defied racially segregated Cedar Rapids and her complicated but enduring love for her mother, and between a possible pregnancy and the freedoms that had been promised by the women's liberation movement but that still had little practical bearing on actual lives. The more Dykstra learned about the circumstances of Paula's life, the more parallels she saw in the lives of the women who knew Paula and the women in Paula's family, in the lives of the women in Dykstra's own family, and even in her own life.

Captivating and expertly crafted from interviews with Paula's family and friends, police reports, and on-the-scene investigation, What Happened to Paula is part true crime story, part memoir, a timely and powerful look at gender, autonomy, and the cost of being a woman.

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reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from April 26, 2021
        Journalist Dykstra debuts with a sobering, well-crafted account of her efforts to solve a 50-year-old cold case. In 1970, 18-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling, who lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, borrowed her roommate’s car in the middle of the night and never returned. Four months later, her decomposed body was found bound and dumped in a ditch. At the time Oberbroeckling went missing, she had a boyfriend, though she had recently broken up with another boyfriend, who was Black, and she might have been pregnant. Neither the police nor the local media had any interest in the case, and in 1972 her police file was closed. The case was ultimately deemed unsolvable due to passing time and the loss of evidence from a flood in 2008. Did Oberbroeckling die of a botched illegal abortion, or was she the victim of someone she knew or of a random killer? The main narrative focuses on the author’s research into case files and interviews with those who knew the girl, but in the end she admits she may never know who killed her. Meanwhile, Dykstra casts a searing light on racism, sexism, and the stigma of being a “bad” girl. This is the perfect blueprint for any true crime writer moved to investigate a cold case. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi. (June)Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the name of the town Paula Oderbroeckling lived in.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2021
        Writer and editor Dykstra took over the project of writing about Paula Oberbroeckling, a white 19-year-old murdered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1970, from her mother-in-law, a fiction writer who grew up in Cedar Rapids as Paula's contemporary. Combining memoir with true crime, � la I'll Be Gone in the Dark, and with social history, like in Becky Cooper's We Keep the Dead Close, Dykstra follows many leads, but, rather than solve the 50-year-old cold case, she seeks to examine ""the bigger mystery of how society could have allowed her to die."" While Paula's disappearance and death received little media attention, and the police investigation revealed unhurriedness and inconsistency, local theories proliferated, mostly regarding two men Paula dated before she died, one Black, one white, and a rumored pregnancy and ensuing, deadly illegal abortion. Delving into studies of beauty, violence toward women, racism, and women's sovereignty over their own bodies in the last half-century, Dykstra recounts scares and opportunities she and the women in her family experienced. Hand to fans of this popular genre blend.

        COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 28, 2021

        Debut author Dykstra dives headfirst into the cold case of 18-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling, who in 1970 went missing in Cedar Rapids, IA. Although Dykstra acknowledges that she may never determine who killed Oberbroeckling, her book nevertheless sheds new light on the disappearance, contending that the case may not have been given the necessary time and resources, owing to sexism and racism. When Oberbroeckling went missing, she (as a white woman) had recently exited a relationship with a Black man, had a new boyfriend, and was possibly pregnant. Dykstra writes that investigators quickly deemed her a "bad girl" and closed her case just two years later. In writing this book, Dykstra faced roadblocks (the loss of some case files in a flood; the passage of time), but attempts to give the case the due diligence Oberbroeckling deserved. She interviews people in Oberbroeckling's circle and studies what documentation she's able to find. Along the way, Dykstra argues that despite social progress, misogyny still persists in U.S. criminal justice and that many women victims are written off by sexist investigators. VERDICT Reopening a cold case, Dykstra reaches no definitive answers, but along the way she offers insight on the impact of societal attitudes on criminal investigations. Hand to readers interested in the intersection of true crime and women's studies.--Mattie Cook, Flat River Community Lib., MI

        Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

subtitle
An Unsolved Death and the Danger of American Girlhood
popularity
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publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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