SOCIAL SCIENCES

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

Little, Brown. Jan. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9780316558730. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316558716. MEMOIR
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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.

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