Eighteen months ago I would not have believed a blog that was posted every two weeks could or would slowly come to dominate this blogger's life. In order to reclaim some independence from Michigan in Books, allow me to read a few books by my favorite non-Michigan authors, and pursue an entirely unexpected interest in and a modicum of talent for creating what passes for art, this blog will be posted once a month starting with this post. Thank you to all the readers of this blog which has grown to over 600 a month. I deeply appreciate your continued and growing support and sincerely hope that publishing Michigan in Books once a month does not discourage your readership or interest.
The business of running a Numbers operation is especially interesting. From age five the author knew, without being told, she could never talk about her mother's business outside of the family. The career was highly stressful not only for Fannie but the entire family. There was always the threat of arrest, being robbed, and of most concern having too many customers pick the same winning number. When a $5 bet can return $5,000 in winnings it doesn't take but half-a-dozen $5 winners to oblige Mrs. Davis to pay out $30,000 and potentially wipe her out. Miss one pay off and a Number operator is out of business. How she ran her business, made enough to buy a new home, drive the best cars, put her children through college, shop at the best stores, and always maintain an edge against a huge payout makes for fascinating reading. The author's mother even figured out how to make the newly introduced state daily lottery an asset for her business.
This book is obviously a loving tribute to her mother even as it details and reveals an endlessly interesting subculture of Black urban America. And on a deep down personal level, although we come from worlds that are separated geographically by roughly seventy miles but are culturally light years apart I would have been delighted and honored to have met and known Mrs. Fannie Davis. What a woman, what a story.
The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis. Little, Brown and Company, 2019, $28.