Delia Owens is the author of the highly acclaimed Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) which has been dominating The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for 69 non-consecutive weeks. She is also the co-author of three internationally bestselling non-fiction books, Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna, which center around her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa.
Delia Owens Bio: Life and Career
Delia Owens is an American author and zoologist best known for her highly successful debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing (2018).
Owens grew up in Thomasville, Georgia in the 1950s. Growing up, her mother encouraged her to journey deep into the wilderness, saying, “Go way out yonder where the crawdads sings” – an advice which she took to heart.
After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California in Davis, she and her then-husband, Mark Owens moved to Africa and lived in the wild for decades. There, they studied brown hyenas, lions, and elephants in their natural habitats. Over the years, she has co-authored several memoirs about her experiences in Africa, including the international bestseller Cry of the Kalahari.
She has won several awards and honors, including the Rolex Award for Enterprise for Kalahari Research Project (1981), the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing (1985), the University of California Outstanding Alumnus Award (1993), and the Ridder of the Golden Ark (Netherlands) (1994). She has also been published in International Wildlife, The African Journal of Ecology, and Nature, among many others.
Delia and Mark Owens are divorced. A resident of Boundary County, Idaho, Owens continues her support for the people and wildlife of Zambia.
Owens is the co-founder of the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation in Stone Mountain, GA.
Owens Family Controversy: Connection to a Real-Life Murder Mystery
Owens is connected to a real-life murder mystery from 1995, when she and her then-husband Mark Owens were doing wildlife conservation work in Zambia.
In 1995, an ABC camera crew came to Zambia to film a segment highlight the Owens family’s conservationist work. In 1996, Turning Point, an ABC News program, aired an hour-long documentary titled, Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story. The film documented the rising tensions between the Owens family and the local poachers. It also featured the controversial killing of a poacher in Zambia, which was allegedly committed her step-son and husband.
However, there are conflicting accounts of what happened; some of the crew members alleged that it was Christopher Owens – Mark Owens’ son and Delia’s stepson – who fired the first and final shots. Meanwhile, another reporter on location with Turning Point doesn’t remember seeing Christopher Owens in the camp. Moreover, Delia Owens told The New Yorker that Christopher was not in Zambia at the time of the incident, and suggested that “people say Chris did this because they got confused, because the cameraman was named Chris, too.”
Although the Zambian government was still investigating the case in 2010, no charges have been filed against the Owenses. However, while she isn’t a suspect, Delia and her ex-husband have been advised to never return to Zambia because they are both wanted for questioning about the incident.
Books by Delia Owens
Published in August 2018, Where the Crawdads Sing was an immediate success after it became the September selection for Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, Hello Sunshine. Where the Crawdads Sing has sold over 1 million copies to date, and has been nominated for several awards, including the Southern Book Award, the Goodreads Choice Award, and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. It has also continued to dominate The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list and has been on the top stop for 69 non-consecutive weeks!
Here is a summary of her bestselling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing.
“For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.”
Although Where the Crawdads Sing has been a breakout success for Delia Owens, it is not her first book. She has also co-authored several memoirs with her ex-husband. These memoirs revolve around the decades she and her husband spent living in Africa, where they worked as wildlife conservationists.
Listed below are her non-fiction books, along with their respective summaries.
Cry of the Kalahari
“Carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, two young Americans, Delia and Mark Owens, caught a plane to Africa, bought a third-hand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness they met animals that had never seen humans before, and would wake in the morning to find lions sleeping near them. Leopards, giraffes and brown hyenas were regular visitors to their camp. But the Kalahari is not Eden, and Mark and Delia were continually threatened by wildfires, drought, violent storms, and sometimes by the animals they studied and loved.”
The Eye of the Elephant
“After writing their remarkable bestseller Cry of the Kalahari, Delia and Mark Owens set off on another African odyssey in search of a new wilderness Eden.
They thought they had found it in a remote valley of Zambia, where the hippos swam in the river just below their tents, lions stalked the bush, and elephants wandered into camp to eat marula fruits.
But the peace was soon shattered with gunfire, and Delia and Mark were inexorably drawn into a struggle to save not only the wildlife but their own lives.”
Secrets of the Savanna
“Crossing stick bridges over swollen rivers and battling swarms of tsetse flies, Delia and Mark Owens continued their program of assisting villagers to find alternative jobs to poaching until the shooting of elephants ended.
Delia moved into her own camp on the banks of the Luangwa River, and from there studied the recovering elephant herds.
The Owens discovered that the scattered elephants now consisted mostly of single moms with their calves, but these small groups grew in size because the females gave birth at a much earlier age than normal, giving hope that someday the great herds will return.”