The author's mother was a Numbers "banker," the "House" if you will, in the illegal betting that people make on their lucky numbers, or hunches. Fanny Davis, part of the postwar migration north, survives poverty, the disadvantages of being a black female entrepreneur, and the decline of Detroit, only to meet her greatest business challenge-the Michigan State Lottery. This is a fascinating inside look at a little known path for black Americans to the middle class: if all you know is "Guys and Dolls," you don't know. An historical look at the last few decades of Detroit, and a beautiful family memoir with great relevance to our fractured civic discourse.
A singular memoir highlighting "the outstanding humanity of black America" that tells the story of one unforgettable mother, her devoted daughter, and the life they lead in the Detroit numbers of the 1960s and 1970s (James McBride)
In 1958, the very same year that an unknown songwriter named Berry Gordy borrowed $800 to found Motown Records, a pretty young mother from Nashville, Tennessee borrowed $100 from her brother to run a Numbers racket out of her tattered apartment on Delaware Street, in one of Detroit's worst sections. That woman was Fannie Davis, Bridgett M. Davis' mother.
Part bookie, part banker, mother, wife, granddaughter of slaves, Fannie became more than a numbers runner: she was a kind of Ulysses, guiding both her husbands, five children and a grandson through the decimation of a once-proud city using her wit, style, guts, and even gun. She ran her numbers business for 34 years, doing what it took to survive in a legitimate business that just happened to be illegal. She created a loving, joyful home, sent her children to the best schools, bought them the best clothes, mothered them to the highest standard, and when the tragedy of urban life struck, soldiered on with her stated belief: "Dying is easy. Living takes guts."
A daughter's moving homage to an extraordinary parent, The World According to Fannie Davis is also the suspenseful, unforgettable story about the lengths to which a mother will go to "make a way out of no way" to provide a prosperous life for her family -- and how those sacrifices resonate over time. This original, timely, and deeply relatable portrait of one American family is essential reading.
About the Author
Bridgett M. Davis is Professor of Journalism and the Writing Professions at Baruch College, CUNY, where she teaches creative, film and narrative writing and is Director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. A graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she is the director of the award-winning feature film Naked Acts, as well as the author of two novels, Into the Go-Slow and Shifting Through Neutral. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
Well-Read Black Girl February Book Club Pick
"Bridgett M. Davis draws a loving portrait of her unforgettable mother who gamed the system and won. Davis is a witness to the journey of the African American strivers of Detroit, but she is also a witness to the evolution of her own remarkable family history. Combining rigorous research with an insider's access, The World According To Fannie Davis is a triumphant tale of female empowerment. Bridgett Davis' love letter to her mother lights a bold new path, because sometimes leaning in is not enough."—Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
"This book brought tears to my eyes...Every once in a while, a book comes along that shows the magic, the kindness, the outstanding humanity of a black America that so few now remember... Fannie Davis was always described as 'lucky.' That her talented youngest daughter Bridgett had the good sense to share her story with us all makes us lucky as well."—James McBride, author of The Color of Water, winner of the National Book Award for The Good Lord Bird, and recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal
"A timely, intriguing and well-told story of what it means to come of age during a time when people found so many amazing ways to survive...at once amazingly specific and trail blazingly universal. I couldn't put this book down."—Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award and author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn
"Davis has a great, sharp way of writing about her mom, and she captures the energy of Detroit at that time."—Glory Edim, founder of Well-Read Black Girl
"The World According To Fannie Davis is a world of urban wit, grit and toughness. It is also a world of transformative magic- the magic of feminine strength and grace...as many people as possible should know about Fannie Davis."—Mary Gaitskill, author of National Book Award finalist Veronica
"The payoffs here are many, including this daughter's loving take on that relentless class of African Americans who made prosperity imaginable for others no matter the odds."—Gregory Pardlo, author of Air Traffic and Digest, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
"An altogether fresh take on the black experience, and a compelling piece of the American experience. An absorbing and delightful book."—Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World
"[A] rare book that successfully combines vivid family memoir with timely social history...I loved this book."—Alysia Abbott, author of Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father
Bridgett Davis named a favorite black female American author in the New York Times Style Magazine.—James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods
"A captivating, energetic memoir that entertains and enlightens as it reminds us of the unstoppable force-in life and on the page-of a mother determined to lift her family up."—George Hodgman, veteran magazine and book editor and author of Bettyville
"The World According to Fannie Davis is a compelling, unusual book. Bridgett Davis tells an insightful tale of how low-stakes gambling helped fuel-and fund-racial justice work in Detroit, while giving us an intimate, invaluable look at the complexities of class for African-Americans. Her story also makes a trenchant point: If a black family could achieve this much while locked out of decent mortgages and good jobs, imagine what they could have done if given the same opportunities as whites. A fascinating read."—Tracie McMillan, author of the New York Times bestseller The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
"A remarkable story of a mother...Sharp and unwilling to be hemmed in by the dual restrictions of race and gender, she did what it took to raise a family and to uplift a community...In this admiring and highly compelling memoir, Bridgett Davis tells the story of her beloved mother. This is not a story about capitalizing on degeneracy. It is one of hope and hustling in a world where to have the former almost demanded the latter. This outstanding book is a tribute to one woman but will surely speak to the experiences of many."—Kirkus, starred review
"Novelist Davis honors her mother in this lively and heartfelt memoir of growing up in the 1960s and '70s Detroit...This charming tale of a strong and inspirational woman offers a tantalizing glimpse into the past, savoring the good without sugarcoating the bad." —Publishers Weekly
"Must read non-fiction...Readers will be fascinated by Fannie's life and inspired by her love of her family."—Elizabeth Rowe, Bookish
"Amoving portrait... Her writing feels rooted in the city and its changing landscape. Combining historical research with extensive interviews, The World According to Fannie Davis is an engrossing tribute to a vibrant, hardworking, unforgettable woman."—Booklist review
"[Davis] humanizes the hustle...This book will be a thought-provoking and inspirational delight for anyone searching for understanding in a world designed for only some to succeed."
—Shirley Ngozi Nwangwa, Wellesley Centers for Women
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