The World According to Fannie Davis

Bridgett M. Davis

Biography 2019 | 308 pages


I cannot disentangle my (suburban) Detroit upbringing from my assessment of this book as a biography, as a tale to be told.  So, please recognize my bias when I tell you I love this book!  You never know when someone writes a memoir or autobiography or biography ... even if the story is wonderful, is the author?  Both work exceedingly well in The World According to Fannie Davis.

Davis writes about her mother Fannie, who ran an entrepreneurial and illegal numbers business (a community-based precursor to state lotteries; more on that when you read this book) in Detroit, from the 60’s to the early 90’s, keeping her family firmly in the black middle class of the Midwest, and avoiding poverty.  There were illegal numbers being run in many cities in the Midwest and East, so her memories also make a statement about what it was like to be black in big-city America, in the 60’s and 70’s especially. This is the story of family, but also it is an education on race, survival, thriving, secrets, and consciousness.  In Detroit in particular, this story includes the unionization of black workers in the automobile industry, racial unrest, white flight, police brutality, community love and connection, discrimination, riots, family loyalty, graft and corruption, the mafia, JL Hudson and Maurice Salad, and, nearest and dearest to my heart, the rise and pervasive influence of Motown.

I didn’t cry at the end, but I did have a lump in my throat.  This biography is intimate and draws you right in.  I will remember this book for a while, I think.  If you read it (which I suggest!) I will be interested to share this story with you and to read or hear your reactions.

Mary (another Detroit woman), thank you for suggesting this fine biography.

March 2021


2 responses on “The World According to Fannie Davis

  1. Mary Cary Crawford

    Glad you liked it, Andrea. You summed up very well the themes found in this book. I would add it is also about family relationships especially father-daughter, mother-daughter. I had heard about ‘playing the numbers’ but never understood it until reading this book. Its close relationship to the lottery (huge industry in Michigan which legalized online sport betting) was fascinating. I did cry at the end. Fanny and Bridgett’s stories moved me.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Oh yes, an important addition about fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters.