Q-and-A with Professor Bridgett Davis about “The World According to Fannie Davis”

Bridgett Davis, professor of journalism and creative writing in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, was the keynote speaker for Baruch’s 2021 Fall Student Convocation on August 24, 2021. Professor Davis’ acclaimed memoir, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, was selected as the first-year text that new students are expected to read before the fall semester begins.

Set in Detroit during the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, the book recounts how Professor Davis’ mother made “a way out of no way” and achieved the American dream by running an underground lottery business, and providing a prosperous life for her family.

We spoke with Professor Davis about her work and her advice for incoming students.

Professor Bridgett Davis and cover of her book "The World According to Fannie Davis"
Professor Bridgett Davis and cover of her book “The World According to Fannie Davis”

Q: How does it feel having your nationally acclaimed memoir The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in The Detroit Numbers selected as the first-year text for two consecutive years?

A: I am both honored and thrilled! It says to me that I’ve achieved my goal with this memoir — to share my mother’s personal story in a way that is specific to our lives, but also universal.

Q: What do you hope first-year students will learn reading your memoir?

A: My hope is that first-year students reading my memoir will learn a piece of American history in the best possible way — through a personal story of one woman who had to figure out “a way out of no way,” thanks to society’s systemic racism; yet she triumphed. I hope students will learn the specific ways in which governmental policy coupled with widespread discrimination has placed unnecessary obstacles in the paths of African Americans seeking to simply pursue the American dream. I hope they understand just what racial justice looks like. And I hope many of these students see their own families’ stories reflected in my own.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for the Class of 2025?

A: My advice to the Class of 2025 is to be kind to yourselves. Know that you’re entering college at an unprecedented time in history — amidst a global pandemic — and as such, you’re facing a challenge most of us never had to face as incoming college students. My hope is that this reality also reminds you of your own perseverance, your own ability to step into the unknown despite some trepidation, yet with  determination. Yours is an extraordinary generation of young people who’ve faced more, seen more, taught us more than ever before. Use that insight, and that tenacity to your advantage.

Q: Anything else you would like to share with new Baruch students?

A: I’m a first-generation college student whose mother worked long and hard at an unorthodox profession to give me the opportunity to succeed. Teaching at Baruch is proof of that success, and giving back to students is my way of saying thank you to her, of honoring her sacrifice.

Q: Your book is being adapted into a major feature film. What’s the latest on that?

A: I’m working hard on a new draft of the screenplay for the film adaptation of my memoir, and my hope is that we’ll go into production in 2022!