The Weight of Survival

By Tina Biello

Categories: Poetry, LGBTQ+
Imprint: Dagger Editions
Paperback : 9781773861395, 72 pages, February 2024

In The Weight of Survival, Tina Biello retraces her family’s journey from post-war Italy to a small logging town near Cowichan Lake, exploring themes of identity, queerness and belonging.


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.


“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

“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