In the current media circus around the Where the Crawdads Sing film, Delia is posting on Instagram official and behind-the-scenes promotional images from the film.
Reese Witherspoon and her Hello Sunshine company are credited as a producer. Via Reese’s Book Club, the actress/producer/celebrity bookwoman is promoting a giveaway for the film in partnership with Anheuser-Busch that includes four movie tickets, a book club tote bag, a Budweiser T-shirt and hat, and a Stella Artois lunch bag and bandana.
The book is reigning at number one on The New York Times best-sellers list for paperback trade fiction.
The publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons under Penguin Random House knew at the end of the day the target audience of White female readers would overlook the author’s alleged ties to poaching and a killing in Zambia.
Screenwriter Lucy Alibar was asked about the killing by Time, but she said she was not familiar with it. Sony, the film’s distributor, canceled scheduled press interviews with Delia, Reese, and the film’s star Daisy Edgar-Jones after the interview with the screenwriter, according to Time. Even Taylor Swift is feeling the heat from fans for recording a song for the movie’s soundtrack.
A similar phenomenon happened in 2020 with Jeanine Cummins. The author, who identifies as White Latina, saw her runaway hit American Dirt receive harsh criticism from Hispanic and Latine literary communities as they argued the story was an inaccurate, offensive portrayal of Mexican life and immigration to the U.S. The novel still zoomed to number one on best-sellers lists with backing from the original celebrity book club queen: Oprah Winfrey.
The publishing industry is dominated by White women, according to recent reports tracking diversity, equity, and inclusion in publishing, so the average readers in mind for many acquired books tend to be White women.
Even at Penguin Random House, 75% of the publishing giant’s contributors identify as White, reveals the company’s recent audit. That means the majority of its authors, illustrators, and other creatives are White like 74% of non-warehouse employees at PRH, a workforce demographics report breaks down.
So, while the drama in Zambia is being portrayed by some as a Black-and-White issue, an author like Delia Owens can still be published and see unfathomable success as she remains at-large for questioning in an unsolved killing and in connection to other possible criminal activities abroad.
To unshroud this controversy from your name, wouldn’t you want to comply with authorities to end the doubt, or would your freedom be too much at risk? It seems like the author is doing just fine with the decades-long distance from her and the controversy, but it remains to be seen how moviegoers will be influenced by the old revelations.