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.
Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick
New York Times Editor’s Choice
“The World According to Fannie Davis is a daughter’s gesture of loving defiance, an act of reclamation, an absorbing portrait of her mother in full. Blending memoir and social history, [Davis] recounts her mother’s extraordinary story alongside the larger context of Motor City’s rise and fall.”―Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
“Davis’s heartwarming memoir honors her remarkable mother, who made a good life for her family in the ’60s and ’70s.”―New York Times, Editor’s Choice
“A rich and heartwarming memoir honors a remarkable mother….We need more stories like Fannie’s-the triumph and good life of a lucky black woman in a deeply corrupt world.”―New York Times Book Review
“The novelist and teacher illuminates the life of her iron-willed mother, who in the 1960s and ’70s spearheaded Detroit’s shadow economy (through an illegal lottery known as “The Numbers”) in order to bolster both her family and the city’s burgeoning black middle class.”―O, Oprah Magazine Reading Room
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.