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UT grad chronicles Grand Canyon murder in new book

Pam LeBlanc

In 2006, an 18-year-old member of the Havasupai tribe stabbed a 34-year-old Japanese woman to death as she hiked alone to a turquoise-colored series of waterfalls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Annette McGivney, an environmental writer who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, wrote an article about the murder for Backpacker Magazine. But after the story published, McGivney, a graduate of the University of Texas journalism school, couldn’t let go.

McGivney traveled to Japan, where she met the victim’s family. She researched the killer, too, learning that he had a history of robbing tourists and was addicted to meth. As she picked apart the story, she also uncovered something unexpected – long hidden memories of her own abuse as a child. She threads all three of those stories into one in her latest book, “Pure Land: A True Story of Three Lives, Three Cultures, and the Search for Heaven on Earth” (Aquarius Press, 2017).

I met McGivney in 2009, when she came to Austin to talk about her last book, “Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West” (Braided River/The Mountaineers, 2009), at the Texas Book Festival. That book chronicled the story of Glen Canyon, which was swamped under water when Lake Powell was created in 1963, but slowly began to reappear as water levels dropped.

McGivney, the southwest editor for Backpacker Magazine and a journalism teacher, returns to Austin next week for two events to promote the most recent book.

Next Tuesday, she’ll speak as part of the Chez Zee Speaker Author Series. On Wednesday, she’ll lead a reading and discussion at BookWoman, an event that doubles as a fundraiser for the SAFE Alliance shelter, which helps survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence. McGivney has also established The Healing Lands Project, to facilitate wilderness trips for child victims of domestic violence.

For more information about Tuesday’s event at Chez Zee, 5406 Balcones Drive, go here.

For more information about Wednesday’s fund-raiser at BookWoman, 5501 North Lamar Boulevard, go here.