Above: Telaina (l) and Casandra Eriksen
Unconditional, the newest book from East Lansing’s Telaina Eriksen, will have its official book party on Tuesday, April 11 at Everybody Reads, Books and Stuff in Lansing. The book focuses on Eriksen’s experiences raising an LGBT child – her daughter, Casandra.
Eriksen began teaching at Michigan State University in 2011 and has continued to teach creative writing classes ever since. She fell in love with East Lansing because it’s the perfect balance between calm and hustle and bustle. “Where I grew up is beautiful—fields, woods, dirt roads, wildlife. But it was way too small for me,” Eriksen stated. On the other hand, she said, cities are “[t]oo much noise, too many people close together, too much traffic, not enough greenery. East Lansing, to me, is the perfect size for daily life.”
Eriksen headed back to school at 39 years old to obtain an MFA in creative writing. “My father died in 2006. I know it sounds cliché, but I realized deeply, not just in a surface way, that my time here on the planet was in limited supply,” she said in regards to her decision. She soon discovered her passion for creative nonfiction through research, and dove in head first. “I knew I wanted something more than to be published—I wanted to be a good writer. Not just a hobby” Eriksen said. “I wanted to understand how good literature fit together—that strange alchemy of skill, a lived life, and, for lack of a better term, magic.”
In 2013, Eriksen published an article online about raising an LGBT child, and it was her editor – a former classmate – who urged her to turn it into something more. She signed a contract in July of last year and finished the final manuscript in December of 2016.
While the six month turnaround is impressive, it didn’t come without challenge. “I think honestly my biggest challenge was self-doubt,” she said. “[A]s I did research and interviewed people, I realized that what I considered common sense was actually a lot of knowledge from the research and books I had read while raising Casandra, the relationships with LGBTQ people I’d had in my life, and the work I’d done on myself so I would be a better parent.”
The book party will feature passages read by Eriksen’s sister, Tara, and her daughter Casandra, from the ‘In Their Own Words’ sections of the book.
“I've really appreciated the fact that my mom has always been there for me… She's a very wise person and I've been really blessed to be able to talk to her about school, dating, and just life in general,” says Casandra Eriksen, expressing excitement for her mom’s new book. “I trusted my mom's judgement, and I think the book has turned out really well.”
The book party will take place from 7pm to 9pm on April 11 and its official Facebook event page can be found here.
Everybody Reads, Books and Stuff is located at 2019 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing.
Disclosure: Telaina Eriksen is a donor to ELi, and Telaina and Casandra Eriksen are reporters for ELi.