Before I Was a Critic I Was a Human Being is the debut collection of essays by Amy Fung. In it, Fung takes a closer examination at Canada's mythologies of multiculturalism, settler colonialism, and identity through the lens of a national art critic.
Following the tangents of a foreign-born perspective and the complexities and complicities in participating in ongoing acts of colonial violence, the book as a whole takes the form of a very long land acknowledgement. Taken individually, each piece roots itself in the learning and unlearning process of a first-generation settler immigrant as she unfurls each region's sense of place and identity.
“I am most definitely the kind of white American who breathes a sigh of relief whenever I cross the border and this compulsively readable document of the multiple states of discomfort, belonging and questioning that constitute Amy Fung's citizenship both complicates that sensation as well as telling me more about Canada than all the trips I've taken so far. That flatness can be equated with modernism and the absolute erasure of Indigenous rights is the kind of poetry I live for. Amy is an awesome writer and her sheer skill and playfulness at the absolute noun and especially verb level where writing lives make the hours I've spent with this knowing and moving book about place and placelessness among the most valuable ones of my reading life. Wow, thank you, Amy.” (Eileen Myles)
“As an Indigenous/Haudenosaunee writer and reader, I recognize within the pages of Amy Fung's book that she does not try to convince us that she is a native rights ally but shows us with language as she moulds the term ally into a verb. Before I Was a Critic, I Was a Human Being does not pluck the weed from the top of the grassline but removes and exposes the roots to announce that humanity is what's normal and commonplace. Her work, as a writer ally boils down to two simple things: remembering and reminding. Amy does this concisely, without pretension or want of reward. She is remembering her humanity in a time when a multitude of inhumane messages ambush us everyday. Amy also reminds the reader to nurture their own humanity. Her experienced journalist voice is tempered with the creativity of a poet to help send her medicine out into a culturally divisive world through her book.” (Janet Rogers, author of Totem Poles and Railroads)
“In this compelling work, Amy Fung breathes life and relevance into criticality. To explicate colonial and racist norms comprising 150+ years of this state and white settler civility, she carefully and unflinchingly, seeks to right her own complicity. Her retrospective stance is both attentive and productive. Through Before I Was Critic I Was a Human Being we reach a better understanding of this moment of contemporary art in Canada and beyond. With keen observation and humility, the author situates herself amid and alongside Indigenous, as well as Black, and racialized artists' futurity and solidarities. More than vulnerable self-effacement, she enacts a grounded experiential. Fung affirms her mothers' insight and sacrifice as she traces the infrastructural and systemic violence certain artists and audiences continue to endure. We witness many a meal and listen to a well-traveled storyteller who can spark a laugh as deft as she can reveal white supremacy. Refuse apathy - before the next opening, event or after party, this visitor's guide is integral reading.” (Cecily Nicholson, author of Wayside Sang, winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry)
“Amy Fung's project - part essay collection and part extended land acknowledgement - presents complex narratives of the self that never settle, but shift and glitter around questioning of power and representation in art and writing. An astute and darkly witty voice that takes no prisoners and will hold you captive from the first page.” (Alex Leslie, author of We All Need to Eat)