2018 Viola Award Finalist for Excellence in Storytelling

Annette McGivney published Pure Land in October 2017, after 10 years of research, with Aquarius Press. Pure Land is the story of the most brutal murder in the history of Grand Canyon and how McGivney’s quest to investigate the victim’s life and death wound up guiding the author through her own life-threatening crisis. On this journey stretching from the southern tip of Japan to the bottom of Grand Canyon, and into the ugliest aspects of human behavior, Pure Land offers proof of the healing power of nature and of the resiliency of the human spirit.

Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese citizen who loved exploring the rugged wilderness of the American West, was killed on her birthday May 8, 2006. She was stabbed 29 times as she hiked to Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of Grand Canyon. Her killer was an 18-year old Havasupai youth named Randy Redtail Wescogame who had a history of robbing tourists and was addicted to meth. It was the most brutal murder ever recorded in Grand Canyon’s history. Annette McGivney covered the tragedy for Backpacker magazine where she is Southwest Editor and she wrote an award-winning article that received more reader mail than any story in the last decade.

Pure Land is a story of an inner and outer journey, how two women in search of their true nature found transcendence in the West’s most spectacular landscapes. It is also a tale of how child abuse leads to violence and destroys lives. And it is, ultimately, a story of healing. While chronicling Hanamure’s life landed McGivney in the crime scene of her own childhood, it was her connection to Hanamure— a woman she did not know until after Hanamure died — that helped McGivney find a way out of her own horror.

One of Annette McGivney’s primary motivations in writing Pure Land was to raise awareness about family violence and Developmental Trauma Disorder, and to help those affected find healing. In conjunction with the book, McGivney has established a public outreach campaign called I Am Pure Land that includes a non-profit organization aimed specifically at immersing child victims in the healing power of nature. A portion of the author’s royalties from Pure Land will support guided wilderness river trips for child victims of domestic violence in a program created by McGivney called The Healing Lands Project. These trips include mental health professionals who continue to work with the children after the wilderness journey is over.

Annette’s stories have appeared in Backpacker, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Wilderness (the magazine of The Wilderness Society ), Runners World, Sunset and Arizona Highways. Annette is also author of “Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West” (Braided River/The Mountaineers, 2009) and “Leave No Trace” (The Mountaineers Books, 1997).

McGivney is also an award-winning author:

  • 2008 Maggie Award from the Western Publications Association for “Best News Story” for her Backpacker story “Freefall,” about the Grand Canyon’s Havasupai Tribe;
  • “Best Travel Feature” in the International Regional Magazine Association’s 2013 IRMA Awards for her story in Arizona HIghways in Nov. 2012 entitled “Arch Rival”;
  • IRMA Award for Best Travel Feature for a Feb. 2013 Arizona Highways article “To Hellsgate and Back.”
  • Second place for the prestigious “Magazine Writer of the Year” Award from the International Regional Magazine Association in 2016 for five feature stories she wrote for Arizona Highways in 2015;
  • 2016 IRMA Award of Merit in the “Nature and Environment” category for an Arizona Highways story she wrote about Mexican wolves on the White Mountain Apache reservation.

McGivney’s educational focus at NAU is on creative non-fiction writing, environmental journalism and magazine editing courses. She is also a member of the faculty for NAU’s Grand Canyon Semester and teaches the field-based humanities course. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Liberal Studies degree from Northern Arizona University.

Author’s website >

KNAU Interview with the author >

Reviews:

There is such tragic irony here. The very things that Japanese tourist Tomomi Hanamure is so deeply passionate about—the wild, stark, beautiful American West and Native American culture—are what leads her to her violent death. Around this single horrific event Annette McGivney has masterfully woven three separate, highly personal narratives.

—S. C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

McGivney intuitively grounds her narrative while exploring humanity’s roots of culture and origins of character, like the light of the sun awakening each intricate layer of earth in the deepest of canyons. She’s a storyteller of the highest caliber, with a style reminiscent of Jon Krakauer’s journalistic skill and unmistakable purpose. — Carine McCandless, author of The Wild Truth, the New York Times bestselling follow-up to Into the Wild

Perhaps the only thing capable of surpassing the sheer complexity, brutality, and sublime beauty of the Grand Canyon are the human stories that unfold upon the surface of this astonishing terrain. In Pure Land, Annette McGivney has gathered together three disparate narratives and braided them into a bewitching tapestry of darkness and light, pain and atonement, along with the unexpected gifts that can sometimes accompany profoundly devastating loss. A horrifying, uplifting, and deeply sympathetic exploration of the manner in which crimes can continue to haunt all who are touched by them, victims and perpetrators alike, trapping them within a web of grief and longing that is tethered between the redemptive pillars of truth and forgiveness. — Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

I struggled each time I had to step away from Annette McGivney’s powerful blend of investigation and memoir in Pure Land  because McGivney so expertly intertwines the lives of three people—all troubled, searching, and deeply connected to the stunningly gorgeous landscapes of the Grand Canyon. I fell harder for idealistic Tomimi Hanamure than I thought I would, felt more compassion for violent Randy Wescogame, and came away with a bottomless well of respect for McGivney. Pure Land reads like Into the Wild, but with a female protagonist, and by an author who is even more fearless than Krakauer in her quest to understand her past, her motivations, and her desire to make sense of a brutal, possibly unavoidable murder. —Tracy Ross, author of The Source of All Things, a Memoir

Biography

Annette McGivney is an award-winning writer who has been drawn to remote, wild places her entire life. Through her work as a writer, educator and speaker she seeks to inspire others to connect with the natural environment and protect wilderness. Annette has been Southwest Editor for Backpacker magazine since 1996 and a member of the Journalism faculty at Northern Arizona University since 2002.

Annette has spent the last 20 years exploring the desert Southwest and writing scores of articles about her wilderness encounters and investigation of environmental issues. Her stories have appeared in Backpacker, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Wilderness (the magazine of The Wilderness Society ), Runners World, Sunset and Arizona Highways. Annette is also author of “Resurrection: Glen Canyon and a New Vision for the American West” (Braided River/The Mountaineers, 2009) and “Leave No Trace” (The Mountaineers Books, 1997). Her book, “Pure Land,” will be published by Aquarius Press in 2017. She also has a forthcoming book about humans and fire to be published in 2017 by W.W. Norton.

In May, 2008 Annette won a Maggie Award from the Western Publications Association for “Best News Story” for her Backpacker story “Freefall,” about the Grand Canyon’s Havasupai tribe. “Arch Rival,” a story McGivney wrote about an arduous Grand Canyon hiking trip for the Nov. 2012 issue of Arizona Highways was named “Best Travel Feature” in the International Regional Magazine Association’s 2013 IRMA Awards. In 2014, McGivney won another IRMA Award for Best Travel Feature for a Feb. 2013 Arizona Highways article “To Hellsgate and Back.”

In October 2016, McGivney received second place for the prestigious “Magazine Writer of the Year” Award from the International Regional Magazine Association for five feature stories she wrote for Arizona Highways in 2015. In addition, McGivney accepted the 2016 IRMA Award of Merit in the “Nature and Environment” category for an Arizona Highways story she wrote about Mexican wolves on the White Mountain Apache reservation.

Annette lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, with her son Austin, who did his first rim-to-river hike in the Grand Canyon at age four.