Mina Athanassious was born on January 1st, 1987 in a small Italian hospital (aptly titled Italian Hospital) in al-Abbasiya, a Cairene neighbourhood in central Egypt. He was a small fat baby, bald and wide eyed and always quiet.
The boy’s father was a Mechanical Engineer and his mother, having obtained her Master’s degree in entomology, lectured at al-Minya University.
The boy’s family moved from Zeitoun, Cairo to Toronto, Ontario when the boy was three years old and his mother heavily pregnant. He grew up in an Arabic speaking Coptic household and spoke Arabic all throughout his early childhood and into his kindergarten years. His peers did not understand him.
Mina spent much of his childhood on Driftwood Avenue in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, an area infamous for its drug epidemic and shootings and gang violence. The boy performed simple chores for his old blonde neighbour a few doors down. He took out her trash in exchange for Jos Louis’ until the police knocked on his blue door one day and asked his family if they knew anything about the blonde lady a few doors down. She sold hard drugs to those that bought. The boy did not know what was in those Jos Louis’, but they tasted good.
Mina’s mother and father and brother moved around a few times after he turned ten until they finally settled in a clean quiet suburb of Toronto called Mississauga. The boy studied the hard sciences in high school and dreamt of one day being a psychiatrist, like a good Egyptian boy. Though he was good at science, his math skills (necessary for admission to medical school) weren’t up to par. He studied grade twelve calculus for hours every night, wracking his brain with numbers and derivatives and concepts that always hovered slightly above him. He received a 60.
All his older friends told him he wouldn’t make it in university calculus if he attained a 60 percent in grade twelve, especially at the University of Toronto. They said all his marks would drop by 15 percent. He would fail they said.
Their words his challenge, he studied harder and longer on any course he’d ever encountered before. He proved them wrong.
The boy now a man needed to find his life path. The University of Toronto having crushed his dreams of becoming a medical doctor, he finished his Bachelor’s degree and applied to Athletic Therapy programs in Ontario. His father mocked his post-graduate ambitions of becoming a higher-order ‘masseuse’ and encouraged him to apply to chiropractic college. At least then he’d be considered a doctor like many of his cousins in Egypt. He applied and got into both programs on the condition that he first finish his Baccalaureate.
The problem was, though Mina liked science, he loved art and philosophy and everything indefinite and undefined. He took a course in existentialism one summer and read of the theories of Heidegger and Sartre and Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. Mina loved Dostoevsky. He’d never read a man that delved so deeply into another’s psychology, dissecting a character’s understanding of the world and reason for action. His second year Existentialism professor described Dostoevsky as one of the world’s greatest literary psychologists. This idea challenged Mina’s own definition of the idea of a good doctor.
Mina took a writing course to finish his degree in the summer of 2009. As a quiet kid growing up, he’d never voiced himself to the world with such clarity until that course. Writing gave him a voice he’d kept to himself for most of his life. And he was good at it.
Before accepting his invitation to chiropractic college, he searched online for Master’s degrees in creative writing. The first result he found was a low-residency MFA program in Cambridge, Massachusetts at a small liberal arts university called Lesley. He applied and got in.
Mina studied under various writers such as Kyoko Mori, Michael Lowenthal and Rachel Kadish. He honed his craft over the years at Lesley and wrote a series of short stories about various Coptic children in Egypt that would become his thesis. His final mentor, Rachel Kadish, loved his work and encouraged him to submit his stories to a publisher. Many years later, he decided to take her advice.
Mina prepared his thesis and sent it off to a small well-respected publisher in Oakville, Ontario called Mosaic Press. They accepted his manuscript with enthusiasm. His debut book, A Face Like the Moon, is set to be released early 2018.