Today, we’re getting a rare opportunity to chat with one of the main characters from Bryan T. Clark latest novel, Come to the Oaks… A true fighter, sometimes a little cocky, we have Tobias Lee here with us.
Before we start, how should I refer to you as, Tobias, or do you prefer your birth name, Mamadou?
Tobias, please call me Tobias. The name has kind of grown on me, especially when Ben says it, even when he’s mad at me.
In the book, you were captured and taken from your family in West Africa. Without giving too much away, you have gone through a lot. Are you happy these days?
Happy? Happy is a moment in time, I have many days when I think of my family, my life prior to all of this. This brings me much sadness. I don’t believe there will ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think of them at least once. I love Ben with all my heart; I can’t imagine living without him. The way he looks at me from across the room, I see the sweetness and the love in his eyes. He is a constant reminder that I am loved and not alone in the world. I think instead of happy, I would say I am lucky to have found love, and grateful to be alive. I think from day to day, I live somewhere between lucky and grateful.
Let’s talk about love since you brought it up. You and Ben have a love that most of us only dream about. Do you remember when you and Ben first met? In the book, it was clear he was smitten with you. What did you think of him?
Actually no, I don’t remember that moment we met, I was sick, so sick and ready to die when he found me in the auction house. Ben has told me many times about that moment and how it was for him, a significant moment when the world changed for him. For me, it wasn’t until that evening when I arrived on the plantation. I caught Ben staring at me, there was a look in his eyes that told me that he saw me, me for who I was, and not a slave that he had just purchased. The way he raised that left eyebrow of his, his eyes lingered, I could feel his stare.
Okay, but what did you think of him? How did the romance progress?
At first, I didn’t know what to think of him. He was the enemy, the reason I was captured and separated from my family. Of course I was wrong. It took me several weeks to see this, but you know Ben, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I saw right through him, not the person he tried to portray to his family or even to me. There was a moment when we were working in the Summer Kitchen one day, I heard the pain in his voice, and I saw him in his rawest form. I fell in love with him long before I ever knew it. Spend a minute with him, and he’ll steal your heart.
What happened then?
Oh you want the details. Okay let’s just say, that day when he first kissed me, I wasn’t expecting it; I never saw it coming, but everything about it felt right. He hung the moon that day.
You’re going to make me cry so let me switch to something else. Tell us something we may not know about you?
Hmm, let me think… I can’t swim.
No, that was pretty clear, the world knows you can’t swim. Come on, something that we don’t know.
Okay… Me and my little sister Chima were close. She was five years younger than me. She followed me everywhere, and I would pretend I hated it. I had eyes in the back of my head and I watched over her closely. What I never told anyone, was that she wanted to go with father and I into the woods that day, but father commanded she stay behind. With her little eyes, she looked at me for permission to come with us, but father had spoken. Had I said something, she would have been with us; I might have been able to save her. I think of her every day.
So I’m crying now, are you satisfied? You talk about your sister, and we know that you come from a prominent family, yet stripped from it all when you were enslaved here. How do you deal with that now?
I think I know what you speak of, but another person cannot strip my self-worth from me in less I give them the power to do so. My worthiness is who I am, it is my birth name, Mamadou Masamba, you remember means Praiseworthy. Although you call me Tobias now, I am Mamadou Masamba forever.
I love your birth name by the way.
Can I ask about Penny, a house slave that cooked for the Lee family in the Big House. In the book, we often read about the great meals she brought to the table. Did you ever get to experience any of her cooking?
Funny you should ask about Penny, she could cook a pot of bushes and it would be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Ben often swiped food from the house and brought it out to where ever we were. The sweet potato pie she made had to have been my favorite. Gosh, I wish I knew how she made it… Why are you smiling?
Because I brought a recipe with me for sweet potato pie. I’ll give it to you after the interview.
If you could say one thing to someone who is thinking about reading yours and Ben’s story, what would that be?
If you believe that all humans should be treated equal, kind, and fair, that love is love, and we all deserve to be loved, then our truths are the same, and I think you’ll enjoy my story.
Okay, I suppose if readers want to know anything further about you, they should read the book, Come to the Oaks? Thank you so much for stopping by today. What’s next for you?
Thank you. I’m heading back in time, where I belong, your world scares me.