The world according to Fannie Davis My mother's life in the Detroit numbers

Bridgett M. Davis

Book - 2019

An homage to the author's mother relates how she cleverly played Detroit's illegal lottery in the 1970s to support the family while creating a loving, joyful home and mothering her children to the highest standards.

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New York : Little, Brown and Company 2019.
First United States edition
Physical Description
xi, 308 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 301-307).
Main Author
Bridgett M. Davis (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

In this memoir, Davis paints a moving portrait of her mother, who was a Numbers runner in Detroit for decades. The Numbers is an underground lottery that started in the early 1920s, largely in the black community. Fannie Davis was one of only two women who banked the Numbers, rare in the male-dominated field. The author learned at a young age to keep her mother's career a secret, despite her immense pride in Fannie's success and entrepreneurship. Fannie earned enough to purchase a beautiful home in Detroit for the Davis family and was known for her generosity toward her community throughout her life. Bridgett describes her parents' early days in Detroit as well as her own experiences with pivotal moments in history, including the rise of Motown, the city's 1967 uprising, and Michigan's vote to create a legal lottery system. 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. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Journalism professor and novelist Davis recalls her bighearted mother, who in 1960s and 1970s Detroit supported her family through the underground lottery called The Numbers. With a 50,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

By all accounts, Fannie Davis was a lucky woman. Moving from segregated Nashville to Detroit in the 1950s, she realized her husband, John T, was unable to support the family as an autoworker. She made the choice to start a homegrown business as a bookie for the Numbers, a "ubiquitous" lottery. Her success allowed her to provide for her family better than most blacks or women could hope for at the time. But in 1972, when Michigan voted to lift the legislative ban on a state lottery and then went from a weekly to daily lottery in 1977, the government was running their own numbers game. Fannie sustained her business for more than 30 years, but this challenge ended her reign. Novelist Davis (journalism, Baruch Coll., CUNY; Into the Go-Slow) switches to nonfiction to recount her mother's "triumphant Great Migration tale." But this isn't Fanny's story alone, it's also a sociological urban history of Detroit as a Northern sanctuary city that still suffered racial constraints. VERDICT The Numbers' background is rarely explored, and works such as Don Liddick's The Mob's Daily Number lack the personal connection Davis so vividly exploits in this successful combination of family and sociological history.—Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Novelist Davis (Into the Go-Slow) honors her mother in this lively and heartfelt memoir of growing up in 1960s and '70s Detroit. Before there was the Michigan Lottery, there was the numbers—an illegal lottery based on three-digit numbers. As Davis notes, it was a "lucrative shadow economy" in African-American communities. Fanny Davis was a feisty and sharply intelligent woman who moved her family from Nashville, Tenn., to Detroit in the early 1960s. There, she learned the numbers ropes and set out to run her own operation; in a short time she was able to provide generously for her family with an upscale house, a stocked refrigerator, shopping sprees at tony department stores, and even a trip to Miami Beach's Fontainebleau resort. Alongside her mother's story, Davis chronicles the hardships African-Americans suffered—predatory real estate schemes, discriminatory treatment in stores, and police abuse. Looking back as an adult, Davis realizes that her mother took risks in running her business, but recalls fondly a childhood during which she always felt secure. This charming tale of a strong and inspirational woman offers a tantalizing glimpse into the past, savoring the good without sugarcoating the bad. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary.(Jan.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An homage to the author's mother relates how she cleverly played Detroit's illegal lottery in the 1970s to support the family while creating a loving, joyful home and mothering her children to the highest standards.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A memoir by the director of Naked Acts and the author of Shifting Through Neutral describes how her mother cleverly played Detroit's illegal lottery in the 1970s to support the family. (biography & autobiography). 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

As seen on the Today Show: This true story of an unforgettable mother, her devoted daughter, and their life in the Detroit numbers of the 1960s and 1970s highlights "the outstanding humanity of black America" (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 home. That woman was Fannie Davis, Bridgett M. Davis's mother.Part bookie, part banker, mother, wife, and granddaughter of slaves, Fannie ran her numbers business for thirty-four 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" and provide a prosperous life for her family -- and how those sacrifices resonate over time.