Where the Crawdads Sing Controversy: How a Real-Life Murder Leads Investigators to Seek Author Delia Owens?
Everything about it was set up to be a Cinderella tale of literary success. This first novelist, 70 years old, wrote a coming-of-age thriller that was unexpectedly a best-seller, selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and picked up to be developed into a feature-length picture.
There has been a surge of interest in the narrative of Kya, a young lady who grows up in the marshes of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family and then finds herself accused of a gruesome crime as an adult. On July 15, the film, which was produced by Witherspoon with Owens’ participation and directed by Olivia Newman, will premiere. It’s a “love letter to growing up in the South,” Reese Witherspoon said in an interview with Vanity Fair in March.
In spite of her rapid rise to fame, Owens has had a tumultuous past that predates her writing success. As Jeffrey Goldberg’s approximately 20,000-word exposé for the New Yorker in 2010 meticulously demonstrated
Delia Owens’s Days in Africa
Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing, lived in Africa with her husband Mark Owens in the 1980s. Delia, a naturalist, and conservationist spent time in Botswana and Zambia studying species there.
The couple encountered elephant poachers in Zambia, who they were determined to stop. It was reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in 2010 that Mark “gradually came to command a corps in North Luangwa by purchasing its loyalty through the transfer of guns, boots, and money, outside of Zambian official scrutiny.”
Goldberg claims that the scouts used violence to halt poachers, but the family’s lawyer disputes this assertion.
Before the Crawdads, Delia Owens Had a Successful Career
For as long as she can remember, Owens, like her protagonist Kya, has been enamored with the outdoors and wildlife. The University of Georgia and the University of California, Davis awarded her a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. Cry of the Kalahari, which she co-authored with Mark Owens in 1984, was a nonfiction work. For seven years in 1974, the couple relocated to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa to do research on brown hyenas and lions. They were honored for their observations of what it was like to live among animals in seclusion when the book earned the John Burroughs Medal as the best natural history book.
Both The Eye of an Elephant and Secrets of the Savanna was written by the team after they returned from Africa in 1992 and 2006. The North Luangwa Conservation Project was born as a result of the couple’s involvement in anti-poaching efforts during their time overseas.
Unexpected Triumph of The Crawdad
‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ Delia Owens‘ debut novel, was released in the summer of 2018. Only 28,000 copies of this novel were published by Publisher Putnam, and no one could have predicted how popular it would become after being chosen as the Reese’s Book Club pick for September 2018.
Because of its popularity among book clubs, Crawdads sold more print copies in 2019 than any other adult title, according to a report in the New York Times, including new publications by Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. According to Codex Group’s president, Peter Hildick-Smith, the novel has “defied the new laws of gravity.”
Controversy Surrounds the Book.
During the height of the Crawdads phenomenon in 2019, journalist Laura Miller wrote a story for Slate about the controversial aspects of Owens’ past that went viral overnight. After spending several years working in Zambia with her previous spouse, Miller wrote a detailed account of their experiences there.
Most Crawdads fans are unaware that Delia and Mark Owens have been warned not to return to Zambia, where they once lived and worked, since they are wanted for questioning in connection with a murder that occurred there decades ago, according to Miller’s piece. As Goldberg reported in 2010, “the American Embassy warned the Owenses not to visit Zambia until the dispute was addressed.” Miller referred to this passage in Goldberg’s article.
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