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My Dark Country: A culture of violence

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This contemporary Non-fiction book tell the story of a family who dedicated their lives to saving owls. The author shares her experiences of growing up in South Africa and her family's exposure to and survival of violent crimes. Choosing a career in conservation has led her family to live on farms, having to work late at night and in unprotected rural areas, which has exposed them and left them vulnerable to attacks and robberies. The book gives an insightful perspective on modern society in a country that is plagued by poverty, haunted by its past and crippled by crime. It also provides the reader with a special look into the author’s life as a conservationist living with owls, whereby together with her husband, they make it their sole life’s mission to rescue and save all owl species.

234 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 31, 2017

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About the author

Danelle Murray

4 books9 followers
Danelle Murray is a conservationist and non-fiction writer and author. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Sciences and Social services, with specialization in the professional context through the University of South Africa (UNISA). This is an applied Psychology Degree. She is the co-founder of Owl Rescue Centre, a non-profit organisation concerned with the protection of all owl species in Southern Africa. She is the Communications Director of the organisation, but also has hands-on involvement in the conservation projects and rehabilitation processes of the owls. Numerous articles of hers, on the topic of owls, have been published in various magazines and newspapers.

Danelle's work in conservation has earned her international acclaim. Danelle is a member of the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) and SSC (Species Survival Commission) Otter Specialist Group.

She feels that her most important role in life is to be a good mother to her two beautiful children, Spencer and Rebecca.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
Profile Image for Anya Pavelle.
Author 4 books120 followers
May 28, 2020
I got this book a few months ago and read it about three times, letting myself slowly ponder almost every element. Why? It’s raw, deals with sensitive subject matter, and is immersed in so much complexity that I needed to let what I read settle and coalesce into something I could articulate in a review. I also needed to question how to approach this book: as a casual reader, an academic, or both? I think I need to put on both hats if I’m going to give the subject matter and book their proper due.

The author and her family run an owl rescue in South Africa. Unfortunately, violence has plagued the author since she was a child. The stories of how she and her family were robbed again and again mirror stories a friend of mine has told me about growing up in the same country. The owl rescue becomes a way for Danelle to cope with the lingering impact violence has left on her psyche. Over the course of the book, the author contemplates the reason for this violence. Is it a lack of compassion on part of the robbers, the result of decades of legally mandated oppression, or something else? This is where the book is most honest, in my opinion. Danelle expresses her frustration with her country’s violence and concludes that violence begets violence. Here’s the frustrating part, though. There’s no easy solution, no concrete way to break this vicious cycle. I empathize with the difficulty of this struggle.

Here’s where I put on my academic hat. I’ve taken several graduate classes where (through a lens of postcolonial literature and critical theory) we discussed the mechanisms of social/political oppression in a colonist/colonizer milieu and learned how revolutions (some violent, others nonviolent) throw off old world orders. Even though apartheid is officially over, South Africa is still struggling with income inequality and the psychic scars left by an oppressive system, which are some reasons the violence continues.

The postcolonial lens, for lack of a better term, is one reason I did a double-take at the book’s description of some of the robbers as savages; that term had been used by colonial oppressors as a justification for subjugating the colonized. To be clear, though, the author does not use the word “savage” in that context at all. I just want to point out that in a colonizer/colonized paradigm, there are traditional dichotomies between civilization/the uncivilized and humanity vs. the savage/primitive. The author is not citing this paradigm, but the similarity of wording could perhaps be misconstrued. Instead, I interpreted the author’s use of the word “savage” to communicate to the reader the brutality of the crimes and their senseless nature. Violent robbers weren’t thinking of their victims as people. It’s easy, therefore, for survivors of violence to see the perpetrators as inhuman. As someone who has personally survived a crime, I get this. At one point, Danelle’s children were threatened, and I understood her instinctual reaction and need to protect them. As she navigates how to live in an uncertain world, Danelle concludes that violence begets violence. This is true. She has hope the cycle can be broken.

I’m glad the author found a measure of peace. This is an interesting book. It made me think about crime in my own country, the US. Just a couple of days ago, police killed an unarmed man, and now protests are erupting across the country. I keep coming back to certain questions. When is violence necessary? How do we stop unnecessary violence at microcosmic and macrocosmic levels? I’d defend myself and my family with violence in self-defense. That goes without saying. But something is broken when unarmed people are gunned down by police and when people living in a rural section of South Africa are robbed and murdered. There’s also something wrong with cultural and political institutions that force people into desperate circumstances. I really think that to end violence in a meaningful way, people have to look inside themselves and be aware of how they may contribute. Likewise, we all have to work together and help end injustice. This book didn’t provide concrete answers on that front, but it did make me think. It's a deep book and recommended for those who like to contemplate these great and difficult questions.
1 review
May 7, 2019
Very good read, captivating storyline showing perseverance, dedication and a never-give-up attitude! Thanks for sharing your story with the world!
August 10, 2019
Dit was n fantastiese boek. Kon hom nie neer sit voor hy klaar was nie. Dit is wat elke dag in ons lewens gebeur en dan om te lees dit gebeur met jou vriende en mense wat jy liefhet. En die skrywer is n amazing persoon! Al wat ek kan sê is FANTASTIESE BOEK!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhona Crawford.
371 reviews3 followers
May 4, 2018
This book has been a strange experience for me: I know Danelle and her family, having spent many days with her at Owl Rescue Centre. I know Bryan and Kerry, cried with them when Frank passed and spent many hours helping them mend broken fences - a neverending, almost futile task.

I saw Spencer and Rebecca grow bigger and witnessed the changes at the centre. The Murrays have accommodated the kids from my school for community service hours and have taught them many valuable skills.

I cannot be objective about this book as it is about and by people I love and respect. All I know is that every thought, every chapter and every emotion comes from a person whose writing is as sincere as she is.

It took me a while to find space enough to sit for a couple of hours and complete the book: it's not meant for part-reading, but for a one-session start to finish: it is the confessions, thoughts, hopes and dreams of one remarkable woman which demands a whole evening's attention. One does not read this book: one listens to it.
Profile Image for Feather Chelle.
Author 8 books29 followers
April 9, 2021
Such a heartbreaking life story

First, I must say that the writing style and the manner in which the author finds positivity in all of her hardships is simply astounding. I think that everyone needs to read this book because I don’t feel like the world is aware of what is going on right now. I hope that the author, her family, and all of their owls stay safe.
511 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2021

To a South African this book will having you saying, yip, sounds familiar. To anyone else in the world, they'd be horrified as to what is accepted as normal here.
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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