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"Lady Fine Is for Sugar" by stephanie roberts

Introduction to The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext with editor José Olivarez

To find out more about LatiNext, stephanie roberts, and other poetry assignments, go to the next page

Think-Pair-Share

Listen to stephanie roberts read her poem "Lady Fine Is for Sugar"

Lesson created by Steven Arenas

Reread each section of the poem and the associated question. Write a collaborative response to the question.

Closing Question

In your opinion, whose point of view regarding women do you think the speaker aligns with—her grandmother's or her mother's—and why?

Step 3

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Close Reading in Four Steps

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Close Reading Step 4

Access the poem here:

Collaborative Discussion

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Steven Arenas is a high school teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. Follow him @sjarenas_

Based on the first section, how does the grandmother think a woman should present herself? Which words or lines support your answer?

Describe what the speaker’s mother is like.

How does the description of Cardi B contrast with the grandmother’s idea of “success”?

What does the line “star spangled fantasy” imply?

Think about how you speak depending on the audience. Consider one or two things you say only around your friends. Why might you do this? Now consider one or two things you say only around your family. Why might you do this? In each of those settings, how do you believe people treat you depending on how you speak?

Read the poem silently without stopping.

Read each section aloud with your partner. Be sure to share any commentary you made throughout the poem.

Divide the poem into 4 sections. Read each section and provide commentary that helps you make meaning of each section.

Lady is Fine for Sugar by stephanie roberts My grandmother believed in it delicate laugh perfectly pressed blouse blouse not shirt and proper grammar billowing it out You are well, not fine. Fine is for sugar! Shorthand typing secretarial position with some florid-faced boss drew success my mother stormed like rain teen pregnancy loud laugh bellicose swore freely in front of her children i am the sky that could fall either way Lady passé and enduring mythology i feel some sorta way over Cardi B precisely because she levitated up a stripper pole like a fuckin phoenix against the stench of respectability politics like a motherfuckin phoenix through the ceiling burning on the hydrogen of unwavering respect bricks of dollar signs gain plush in the same country where abuela believed you had to play the Lady game Star spangled fantasy my mother knew the danger the voice that can't be heard the suspect testimony of that pressed blouse flesh-tone foundation obscures black and blues white peter pan collar crossed ankles the I'm well, thank you.

Hello my name is stephanie roberts, coming to you today from Quebec, Canada. I'm going to read my poem "Lady Fine Is for Sugar" and then talk a little bit about it afterward. Click the media player to listen. A copy of the poem and the transcript is located below. Lady is Fine for Sugar My grandmother believed in it delicate laugh perfectly pressed blouse blouse not shirt and proper grammar billowing it out You are well, not fine. Fine is for sugar! Shorthand typing secretarial position with some florid-faced boss drew success my mother stormed like rain teen pregnancy loud laugh bellicose swore freely in front of her children i am the sky that could fall either way Lady passé and enduring mythology i feel some sorta way over Cardi B precisely because she levitated up a stripper pole like a fuckin phoenix against the stench of respectability politics like a motherfuckin phoenix through the ceiling burning on the hydrogen of unwavering respect bricks of dollar signs gain plush in the same country where abuela believed you had to play the Lady game Star spangled fantasy my mother knew the danger the voice that can't be heard the suspect testimony of that pressed blouse flesh-tone foundation obscures black and blues white peter pan collar crossed ankles the I'm well, thank you. TRANSCRIPT: My grandmother and my mother (both now passed on) were Black-Latina women born in Panama (as was I). In my memory they could not be more dissimilar. As intimated in the poem my grandmother was a staunch believer in respectability politics that in America if you kept your dress presentable, were quiet, educated, and useful you would succeed as much as your white contemporaries. My mother seemed to have personal ambitions that centred themselves around her own authenticity more than exterior approval. In contrasting the values of both these strong women I thought of the phenomena that is Bel-calis Marlenis Almánzar AkA Cardi B. I think I fell in love with her from the first Vine video that introduced her to me. We both grew up in rough parts of New York City, she in the Bronx and I in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and the energy she radiated hit the few nostalgic spots of my girlhood memory. Here was a heavily accented Latina woman who did not seem to give two bleeps about being anyone but herself. She talked openly about stripping and her body enhancements to make more money. She would have scandalized my grandmother. In the poem Cardi B represents not just a refutation of my grandmother's beliefs but also to my mind the refutation of a type of American dream. Cardi B seems a type of anti-Gatsby to me. His tragedy is her success. I think my mother knew intuitively, against the way she was raised, that if you use someone else's standards and values for success you are in danger of only accomplishing someone else's dreams.

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