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Oberon Press, 1995

A book-length collection about the past and present of the Cherokee nation.  The poetry of nature, the passion of ancient folksong, the soul of a people, they’re all here in this elegant suite of stories. One of the stories contained in this collection, Long Man the River, won the 1994 Journey Prize, a Canadian literary award, presented annually by McClelland and Stewart and the Writers' Trust of Canada for the best short story published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine. The award was endowed by James A. Michener, who donated the Canadian royalty earnings from his 1988 novel Journey and is the largest monetary award given in Canada to an up-and-coming writer for a short story or excerpt from a fiction work-in-progress.



“In Constant Fire, Hardy explores life on the Qualla Boundary Reserve. The stories are formal expressions of Hardy’s regret for the conduct of her people.  She joins a people trapped in epilogue, in an endless display of mourning and deferred grief. But the stories can also brilliantly shift shape and honour – formally and in spirit – Cherokee culture. . . .  Hardy says she “squeezed between worlds” when she lived and worked among the Cherokee, that she needed to tell these stories.  On the west coast we might say she potlaches.  Constant Fire is a redistribution of great wealth.”

Books in Review

“Sometimes a collection of stories has enough bone and sinew linking its internal parts that it defies the ‘story suite’ genre and emerges with the organic integrity of a novel. Melissa Hardy’s Constant Fire is that kind of book: the recurring characters and thematic unity are potent enough magic to conjure away the conventional demand for over-arching plot. Like the tender green shoots springing forth from the wood of Mama Jesse Black Crow’s kitchen table, this book is alive.”


“Constant Fire is artistically written, with an effective mix of tragic history and comic tension in the present.  Its jokes operate not only to release nervous tension but also to call attention to the ongoing rifts between white America and native peoples.  Constant Fire is a learning experience packaged colourfully and conscientiously – as befits a sacred trust.”

University of Toronto Quarterly

She successfully situates her characters in a spiritually vulnerable world, a rich mystical landscape hidden below the façade offered to the outer world. Cherokee stories break up like fights or modulate like music into a different key or drift away like smoke. . . .  The promise of Hardy as a writer was recognized last year with the $10,000 Journey Prize for her short Long Man the River, which first appeared in Best Canadian Stories and is situated like a sacred fire, warming the heart of this rich collection.”

Ottawa Citizen

The author would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council
during the writing of Constant Fire.

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