True to Life


Travel into the lives of these real-world characters.

‘Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem’

Memoirs are like the best kind of eavesdropping, one that the storyteller knows you’re in on. And Dapper Dan Day is as good of a storyteller as they come. Though he was most recently seen at the Met Gala and as a Project Runway judge, the fashion industry was the last to figure out his appeal.

Growing up in Harlem, he dabbled in dice games from a very young age, then got mixed up in drugs before a trip to Africa inspired him to start dressing the athletes, singers and bosses who were living around him. He was not yet welcome on Fifth Avenue, but what he could see was what his customer wanted and it was high-end labels on designs that were more to their taste. And what he used to make it happen was a whole lot of hustle. As rap music and MTV increased their cultural dominance, Dapper Dan was an integral part of the look.

“Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem” by Daniel R. Day pays allegiance to all of those who were on the journey to the upper echelons of fashion with him. It should be a must-read for anyone interested in fashion, contemporary culture and African-American history.

‘The World of Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers’

There are many similarities between Dapper Dan’s story and that of “The World of Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers” by Bridgett M. Davis. Both the Days and the Davises were part of the great migration from the South, with the Davis family ending up in Detroit.

There, Bridgett Davis, the youngest of five children, wanted for very little. She was the apple of her father’s eye, but health problems kept him frequently unemployed. So her mother picked up the slack and started running the numbers, an underground hustle in African-American communities.

If you don’t know about how it works, you will learn for Davis’ book is as much about the culture of the numbers as it is about her mother, and the research she does on both is enlightening to both the reader and the author. The amount of Fannie’s numbers players decreased once the state lotteries took over and you could play your luck at any corner store.

Both Fannie Davis and Dapper Dan had their livelihoods gentrified but got their due. Dapper Dan now co-designs with Gucci in an appointment-only boutique. And Fannie Davis has been given an inspiring and empowering portrait of a mother’s determination.

‘Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? A Mother’s Suggestions’

For a quicker read about a determined mother, cartoonist Roz Chast illustrates some bite-size bits of advice and wit from comic writer Patricia Marx’s mother in “Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? A Mother’s Suggestions.” Marx’s slim book is for anyone who has a mother full of contradictions, always looking out for your best interests but also quick to cut you down to size.

Her advice isn’t life changing; rather it involves dinner parties or the right types of plaid. But you can tell that Patricia Marx jokes about her mother because she loves her. And even with less than 100 pages, we get a pretty good story about Mrs. Marx.

Jamie L. Watson is a collection development manager with Baltimore County Public Library.

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