A Reading with Best-Selling Author Bridgette M. Davis

By Kaytlin Thornton | Contributor

Photo courtesy of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, best-selling writer Bridgette M. Davis read an excerpt from her memoir The World According To Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers during a webinar on Zoom. 

The memoir recounts how the author’s mother illegally ran numbers out of their Detroit home in the 60s and 70s, in order to provide for their family. The numbers game is a form of illegal betting where the bettor attempts to pick the three numbers that will be randomly chosen the following day. 

“The numbers are literally a precursor to the lottery,” Davis said, “A lot of people don’t know because they’re younger or they just never think about it, but the lottery is really only a legal entity that came about in the early seventies. Before you had that, you had this game that one black man invented in Harlem that spread literally like wildfire across urban centers.”

At the reading, Davis read the entire prologue of her memoir which described a story from her childhood where one of her grade school teachers asked about how many pairs of shoes she owned, and how her mother gracefully handled the situation. 

She also spoke on how writing this book helped her learn and understand the things her mother did as she was growing up, and really encouraged her to dig further and uncover how deeply the numbers game ran in black history. 

“I would remember terms,” Davis said, “I would remember behaviors, I would remember ways in which my mother would do certain things. So, I would think, why exactly did she do that? No one sits down and tells you why they’re doing things. You just watch it happen. It was like breathing in my household. So, I wasn’t saying ‘Mom, why are you actually adding those figures up like that on that adding sheet?’ I just watched her do it.”

Davis also emphasized how the research helped her understand the challenges her mother was facing in order to provide for their family in the way that she did. 

“I needed to know what the impotence was for her,” Davis said, “How is it that she was so desperate and determined? Both. Desperate and determined. That sent me down myriad paths of research. I got a lot of the ‘why’s’ answered, but what was stunning for me was that I hadn’t understood what she was up against, and that was pretty devastating actually. There were moments in the research when my heart really bled for her. I thought, ‘I can’t believe what she had to go through.”

Bridgette M. Davis does a little bit of everything. She is a novelist, essayist, teacher, filmmaker and memoirist. She is a major advocate for promoting literary talent by people of color. She is a co-founder for Words@Weeksville, which is a monthly reading series that takes place at Weeksville Heritage Center in Central Brooklyn. Her memoir The World According to Fannie Davis is a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and was named a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and Real Simple Magazine.