The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers

The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers

by Bridgett M. Davis

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316558730
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 01/29/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 18,288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

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.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Prologue 3

Part I Hitsville, USA 15

Part II Hey, You Never Know 123

Part III Living Takes Guts 211

Acknowledgments 295

Sources 301

What People are Saying About This

Author of the New York Times bestseller The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebees, Farm Fields and th - Tracie McMillan

"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."

Winner of the National Book Award and author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson

“The World According… is such 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. Fannie’s story is a story that is at once amazingly specific and trail blazingly universal. I couldn’t put this book down.”

Author of The Island at the Center of the World - Russell Shorto

"Bridgett Davis's memoir of her mother isn't just about a tough woman working the angles. It's an altogether fresh take on the black experience, and a compelling piece of the American experience. An absorbing and delightful book.”

Author of Air Traffic and Digest, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry - Gregory Pardlo

"We know that braving systemic racism is a high-wire act, but what was that experience like in generations past, every day building a safety net for loved ones and community while perched on a quivering tightrope? With this loving look back, Bridgette Davis immortalizes her mother Fannie who, like so many in what Davis calls the "blue-collar bourgeoisie,” improvised her own economy using wit, nerve and, yes, a little luck to provide the benefits of a middle-class life. 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.”

Veteran magazine and book editor and author of Bettyville - George Hodgman

“As the world continues to ask the question ‘How does a woman survive?’ Bridget Davis arrives on the scene with The World According to Fannie Davis, 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. Davis places her Fannie firmly in history and tradition alongside some of America’s most irresistible recent heroines and renders Detroit, her stage, with color and life.”

Author of National Book Award winner The Good Lord Bird, and recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal - James McBride

“This book brought tears to my eyes. Not just because I happened to actually meet the great Fannie Davis by chance, on the steps of a brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn many years ago. But because this fabulously written memoir by her daughter Bridgett Davis opens up a world that is now history. I never thought I'd live long enough to see the magical kaleidoscope of black America's cultural richness reduced to a series of soda pop commercials, clips of chain link fences, basketball stars, tennis shoes, and liquor sales, while millions of black men and women languish in prison, the scourge of crack and heroin having done its work. But 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.

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 in “Delaware” one of Detroit's worst sections. Fannie Davis, — part bookie, part banker, mother, wife, granddaughter of slaves— became more than a numbers runners. She was a kind of Ulysses, guiding both her husbands and six children through the decimation of a once proud city using her wit, style, guts, and even gun. She ran her numbers business for 35 years. She sent her children to the best schools, bought them the best clothes, mothered them to the highest standard, and when tragedy of urban life struck her children, soldiered on with her stated belief: “Dying is easy. Living takes guts.”

She was one of the legion of black numbers runners whose guile, business sense, generosity, and honesty built entire towns all across America. The fascinating business of “policy,” where the gambling habits of blacks, seen as morally deficient, was used as a crowbar to wrench the lucrative business out of the hands of the community and into the hands of the state, is exposed in this touching and powerful memoir. Fannie Davis always described herself as “lucky.” That her talented youngest daughter Bridgett had the good sense to share her story with us all makes us lucky as well.”

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