The Weight of Survival

By (author): Tina Biello

Nestled in a small logging town near Lake Cowichan is an old elementary school. The child of immigrants from post-war Italy attends this school among the population of mostly white, anglo-saxon families. She does not speak English.

Her family is one of four who emigrated from southern Italy, to this small forested community. There are other families, from India, who share a kinship of ‘other’ with the Italian families. What happens when your voice, your food, your home is different? How do you know how to be queer when there is no language or place for it? How do you remember a time not spoken of, but passed on through the smell of walnut blossoms in the spring, grapes in the fall? In The Weight of Survival, Tina Biello chronicles this upbringing of otherness, of being shaped by two very different communities, of blending identities into one, and what is left behind in the process.


Tina Biello

Tina Biello is Italian by way of Lake Cowichan, BC. She is born to immigrant parents from Southern Italy. She lives on the traditional territory of the Snaw-naw-as people. She is an actor, a poet and playwright. She had the great privilege of working with mentor Patrick Lane from 2008-2019. Her first full-length book of poetry, In the Bone Cracks of the Walls, published by Leaf Press, was part of a multi-disciplinary art exhibition of poetry, watercolour and music in Montreal, Vancouver and Italy. A Housecoat Remains is her second collection with Guernica Editions, 2015. Playing into Silence is her third collection with Caitlin Press, 2018. Her recent two-act play is based on Lorna Crozier’s poems from A Saving Grace. She was the second Poet Laureate of Nanaimo from 2017–2020. Since then she has been collaborating with composers and the Vancouver Island Symphony with new symphonic works set to her poetry.


“In her collection of poems and short prose The Weight of Survival Tina Biello uses small sentences to collect and honour her thoughts on some very big subjects: small-town queerness, curses and blessings, death and the afterlife, leaving and arriving, family recipes and the recipe of a family. I had to stop every few pages and use a bright pink highlighter to mark the lines I knew I would need to return to in order to navigate through things like the loss of a parent’s ordered mind, the memory of the smell of a departed grandmother, the empty space on a pillow of a lover-no-more. This is poetry that can help you with all of these things.”

—Ivan Coyote

“Chronicling her family’s journey from their ancestral home in sun-drenched Casacalenda to the cloud-covered region of Cowichan complete with curses as companions and proverbs as memory portals, The Weight of Survival serves as another cherished collection of poems by Tina Biello. Lush with vivid language and crafted with care in capturing the cadence of Molise’s disappearing dialect, Biello’s writing brims with love, honours grief, and thrums with an enduring heartbeat shaped by the diasporic existence.”

—Eufemia Fantetti


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72 Pages
8.00in * 5.50in * .25in


February 02, 2024


Caitlin Press



Book Subjects:

POETRY / Canadian



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