*(San Diego) – Looking from the outside at Magetta Chantiloupe and all that she has accomplished in life, one would think that this San Diego resident and author of Driven: When Obstacles Take Center Stage (2014 Austin Macauley Ltd. London) has always had it together. But looks would be deceiving, as this Certified Financial Planner with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards – retired General Stock Broker and native of Jamaica West Indies, and mother of four adult children has fought and struggled to attain all that she has accomplished. Also the author of Iraq: The War That Shouldn’t Be – You Decide, Chantiloupe has been a world traveler – she has cruised the world, 41 of which were on the CUNARD Line. Her actual achievements and overall story could fill several books.
This long and sometimes tumultuous journey of Chantiloupe, actually started in 1967, when she left Jamaica West Indies on a 6-month visa borne for New York. She had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave her children behind for her to start a new life in America, eventually going back to get them.
Driven is about betrayal, deception, abuse, infidelity and abandonment. Driven can be a panacea on how to overcome extreme difficulties by determination, the will to overcome and desire to succeed. Driven tells how she fought to keep her family of five off the government’s payroll by having four jobs, each feeding off each other enabling her to go from poverty to become a successful entrepreneur. It tells how having the right mind-set she built a cohesive and loving family in spite of the many obstructions and how will power, faith, hope and positive thinking enabled her to overcome difficulties.
Driven tells how she won her custody battle of almost a decade, refusing to give up until she won. Her children, having seen her success in her career and child rearing, emulated her not only in their education and careers, but as successful parents as well. One daughter said, “Mom! When I grow up I want to be just like you.” The other said. “I hope I will be as good a mother as you.” And, they certainly are!
In approaching this review I personally had to overcome the residue of the author’s past, as she is still guarded due to the betrayal and abuse that she suffered, possibly thinking that if she let her guard down for a minute, even in my attempt to interview her, she would be taken advantage of. In reading this insightful book, all of that is now understandable. She admits in her book that she is and has been a private person, even more so at this point in her life.
There is a very profound passage in this well-written book that speaks volumes about the author and her life experience. She states: “I believe I have a trait in me that draws men to me – those who would take my goodness for a sign of weakness and would invariably use and/or abuse me.” She further states and puts into perspective this trait she feels she has: “I can recall Helen, one of Anne Bronte’s characters, when her aunt said: ‘Keep guard over your eyes and ears as the inlets of your heart, and over your lips as the outlet, lest they betray you in a moment of unawareness.” She indicates that her ex-husband Lenbert wouldn’t be the last one to use and abuse her, stating that during her custody battle, she was used and abused by others all over again. Of particular note was when her estranged husband tried to gain custody of her daughter. Chantiloupe states: “One day my husband physically attacked me. I was holding my daughter. He pulled her away from me and kicked me in my stomach. Then he took her and left. I called my attorney and she filed a writ of habeas corpus demanding my husband bring my daughter before a judge. She also advised me to go back to family court and file for an order of protection.” In further regard to the reference made to Anne Bronte, the fact that Chantiloupe has been married and divorced by three men in her lifetime, lends credence to what Bronte says and this so-called trait that she feels she has regarding men.
The author is candid about her experiences with men in her life, as well as some of the obstacles and challenges that she had with her children due to these men. Her first husband, Clifford Daire, she pointed out as an adulterer, and the second, Lenbert, Chantiloupe indicates that he only married her as a ruse to stay in the country from Jamaica. She also indicated that Lenbert was mean-spirited towards her children from a previous marriage, which at times had them in fear. Only his daughter Michelle with the author did he show warmth and a sense of caring, as indicated in the book. It is very interesting to note that many years later she actually named a company that she had formed after her first husband, Daire. Perhaps this is something subliminal! There are many interesting and complex issues in this memoir, which makes it well worth reading.
Perhaps the most profound act of betrayal in this well-written and soul-searching book, came from an unlikely source, that of one of the author’s siblings. Chantiloupe reveals how hurt and disillusioned she was after one of her beloved and trusted sisters “stole” more than 3 million dollars in a jackpot that she had won at a casino in Las Vegas. As a matter of fact the author titles the chapter; Betrayal: Broken Trust – My Sister Took My Windfall. That was a devastating experience to endure, and in a telephone conversation with the author I commiserated with her, indicating that I had experienced something similar in my own family. I tried to lessen the blow that the author felt by indicating to her that sometimes the most painful hurt can come from a family member. Chantiloupe did indicate that she actually did receive half of this windfall that she won, through a long and protracted legal fight, but the damage caused has never been repaired between her and the sister. As a matter of fact, Chantiloupe indicates in this very same chapter that her sister actually changed her name and went into hiding to avoid what was rightfully that of the author. She even indicates that her other sisters became aloof and did not believe what had transpired regarding the stolen windfall. Needless to say, when something like this happens in the family it can cause lasting and irreparable damage.
The author demonstrates her sense of social consciousness in Driven (379 pages) by referencing the Trayvon Martin killing, and putting it in the context of her own two sons and her fear for their safety when they all lived in New York. She stated in Driven that as a parent who had raised two boys, she was deeply disturbed that Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old black boy, was shot in the heart and killed while walking home by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman. I shared this same concern as Chantiloupe, for many years ago in my hometown of Chicago, two of my sons aged 11 and 16 were both shot at the same time while walking home from a movie. The outcome for them was decidedly different from that of Trayvon Martin, for they survived. The author even shares the thoughts and viewpoint of President Obama on the Trayvon Martin killing.
Magetta with Congresswoman Maxine Waters Waters
She also indicates in her book that being a concerned citizen of the United States – she couldn’t just sit idly by and not vent her views. Hence, in 2003, she wrote her book; Iraq: The War That Shouldn’t Be – You Decide. This actually says a lot more about Chantiloupe than first impressions. She is more than just a pretty face and intellect. As a result of this book about the Iraq war, she received an invitation by Congresswoman Maxine Waters to speak before her “Out of Iraq” Congressional Caucus. Chantiloupe indicates that the panel discussion was held in the Ways and Means Room in the Longworth House Office Building and was conducted by Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey. She describes the event as surreal when Mrs. Waters escorted her and others into the room. The author even received accolades from Vice-President Joe Biden and President Obama resulting from her writing of the book about Iraq, a book that provides very critical analysis of how and why we got into that war. I also hope and plan to review that book for our readers.
Having never travelled on a cruise ship before as the author Chantiloupe has done numerous times, I and readers of this insightful book can vicariously travel to such sites as the Great Wall of China, a “Millennium Cruise with her family,” a world cruise in 2006 on the Queen Elizabeth II, Cape Town in South Africa, as well as visiting the TaJ Mahal. Chantiloupe shares with us numerous photos in Driven of various travels around the world, and provides tantalizing anecdotes that has the reader feel as if they were actually along for the ride. This is an amazing woman – that has me thankful that she has shared her story with me.
Driven is replete with numerous photos of the author and her family at different stages of her life, along with some from her numerous travels around the world. One that stands out is of her on the Great Wall of China. The photo of her with Congresswoman Maxine Waters is indicative of how far she has come in life from that young girl in Jamaica West Indies many years ago. This memoir tells a complete story of a very accomplished woman who has overcome the obstacles that once took center stage. The author indicated to me recently that her numerous travels around the world was a respite for her from the numerous situations and travails referenced in this book. Of comfort to her at this stage of her life is having nine grandchildren and expressing the pride of her children for the structured lives that they are living and bringing up their children in a manner that she feels is consistent with faith, hope and charity. I can’t wait to one day meet this charming person and personally indicate to her how appreciative I am of her for sharing her complete story with me, and I in turn, to the rest of the world.
Dennis Moore is the Associate Editor with the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor with SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, along with being a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.