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A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich
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A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  527 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Benjie can stop using heroin anytime he wants to. He just doesn't want to yet. Why would he want to give up something that makes him feel so good, so relaxed, so tuned-out? As Benjie sees it, there's nothing much to tune in for. School is a waste of time, and home life isn't much better. All Benjie wants is for someone to believe in him, for someone to believe that he's mo ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Puffin Books (first published 1973)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Meaghan
Sep 28, 2007 Meaghan rated it really liked it
This book was written in the early seventies and is pretty dated now, both in the attitudes of the characters and the way they talk. Modern-day high school kids may find it hard to relate to and I, a white girl from suburbia, found the Ebonics hard to understand.

However, the book definitely has its merits. I was impressed with the author's ability to create a multitude of narrators, none of them sounding too much like the other. The author also did an excellent job establishing the setting (whic
...more
Evanston Public  Library
After reading a fascinating article on actress/author/playwright Alice Childress in the October 10 issue of The New Yorker, I decided to check out her young adult novel A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich published in 1973. Although some of the language is dated, this is still a powerful and moving book about 13-year-old heroin addict Benjie trying to find his way in New York's Harlem. Written in short, alternating chapters from differing perspectives (Benjie's mother Rose, best friend Jimmie-Le ...more
Liz
This book brings up many great points to discuss with teens in a book club or school setting. Issues include: teen drug abuse and addiction, race relations, the successes and failures of the civil rights movement, the education of urban African-American youth, family communication, etc. Unfortunately, this book was written for a teen audience in the early 1970s, and that causes a tremendous amount of dated-ness. The hip jive dialect bears little resemblance to the language used by urban teens (o ...more
Yinglin Chen
May 23, 2013 Yinglin Chen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sophomore-year
Benjie a 13 year old teenager, is having a bit of trouble admitting is issues. From smoking marijuana to injecting heroin, he keeps on saying he isn't addicted to any of the drugs. However, his mother and her boyfriend, Butler, constantly deals with Benjie stealing household items for drug money.

A book about teenage life in the 70's isn't necessarily the novel you thought it would be about. This book wasn't the best book if you don't pay attention to the headings and names of the chapters. Each
...more
El
I snagged this book off of my boyfriend's sister's bookshelf before I flew out of town, mostly because the title was funny to me. Benjie is a 13-year-old boy living in a rough neighborhood with his mother, her boyfriend and her mother. As is typical in many young adult books the boy's descent into drug abuse goes almost entirely unnoticed though, interestingly enough, not because no one cares about him. It was refreshing that Benjie is not an abused child but simply a child living under poor cir ...more
Laura
I remember seeing this title when I was in junior high. My librarian steered me away from it. Although I never read it, I always remembered it because of the title.

Flashforward many, many, many years and I see the title again. The book is much thinner than I remember. I decide to read it anyway to see if it might be of interest to my struggling readers.

It's a good story with ever-changing points of view. The problem is the language. There is no way that I could get away with having this on my sh
...more
Beth
I like this book and I don't like this book. This is a re-read for me. The first time I read it I was about the same age as Benjie. I think I liked it more then. The alternating perspectives is what makes this book interesting. Through the various narrators eyes you get a great vision of what the community is like, but at the same time I don't feel as if I got to know my main character well enough. He remains elusive and shifty throughout the book. The vernacular used can be at sometimes tricky ...more
Suebee
Sep 13, 2008 Suebee rated it it was ok
A controversial book because of its slang, street language and drug activity, I think this book is more suited for teens/adults. It's not a "children's book" just because there is a child character. The book is set in a tough NY neighborhood. Benjie is a 13-year-old boy who abuses drugs, and the book is told from his point of view, as well as his mother's, his mother's boyfriend (Butler Craig), his grandmother, the next door neighbor lady who wishes Butler were hers, the school principal, and te ...more
Rachel
Sep 07, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-11
My last book of the summer! This was a quick, arresting read, a story told in the voices and vernacular of its characters, with the occasional newspaper clipping thrown in. I have never lived in an urban slum, but the characters and events seemed convincing to me. There were only a few lines that sounded too snappy or poetic to be real--the title line was one of them. It's easy to imagine this novel being performed as a series of monologues. Each character has redeeming qualities, and in the end ...more
Akilah
This was a little hard to get into because the first chapter is told in dialect, and I was tired when I started it. It's told in alternating POVs by everyone affected by Benjie's drug use and offers some interesting perspectives on family, race, and economic equality.

It's a slim volume but took me longer than I expected to read--probably because it took me a little while to figure out.

That ending is killer, for sure. Worth it just for that.

Read Harder 2016: Read a book originally published in
...more
Alexis Wray
Oct 02, 2015 Alexis Wray rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I especially like how it had all the perspectives in Benjis life telling the story of how heroin became apart of his life. The only part I didn't like was the ending, the ending was Butler just waiting for him to come home and hoping that he wasn't back on drugs. I just wish there would have been more of an ending!
Sunny
Jan 08, 2017 Sunny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: youngadult, poc-mc
Very quick story of a young boy who gets addicted to heroin. The chapters alternate between the people in Benjie's life and reads a little like a documentary. The characters speak directly to the reader about their lives and their fears for Benjie.

Benjie talks a lot about his feelings of alienation and the many ways he feels people disappoint him or look down on him. This was written in the 70s by acclaimed playwright Alice Childress and the language will feel dated to many readers. However, I
...more
Chris
Jan 14, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it




Summary:
Thirteen-year-old Benjie is like a lot of ghetto children: he's black, he's poor, he hasn't got a father, and he's gone from smoking marijuana to using heroin. He says he’s not addicted. He can stop anytime he wants. However, his mother and her boyfriend, Butler Craig, are getting fed up because he's stealing all their stuff and selling it for drug money. When the teachers see him stoned at school, they send him up for detoxification and treatment. Benji is released and things seem OK fo
...more
Haley
Jul 31, 2014 Haley rated it liked it
Shelves: lis-722
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chase Larson
Sep 25, 2014 Chase Larson rated it it was amazing

Sept, 16, 2014




This book has an interesting plot and I will tell you why. Ben starts to get addicted on drugs and his parents get worried. This starts alot of drama in the family. Ben isn’t worried about it at all even though he is being asked questions.

This book has a unique way of telling the story because each chapter has a diffrent point of view. In one chapter they could be using Bens point of view then the principals point of view on the matter of his drug abuse. It’s a very important part
...more
Becky
Jan 19, 2012 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: lis-722
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathleen
Aug 31, 2015 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-lit
This one was okay. I liked that it was written from multiple perspectives, because drug addiction affects not only the addict but everyone around them. It's a very introspective book, focusing more on thoughts and feelings instead of actions. I personally had trouble relating to it because I'm not black, and the language took a couple of tries to figure out. The civil rights aspects of the book are still relevant today, but it distracted from Benjie's story. It felt like a longer read than it ac ...more
Padjet2
Jan 15, 2012 Padjet2 rated it liked it
Shelves: lis-722
I liked the use of multiple characters leading a narrative A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich. I think it helped because the main character Benji and his addiction to heroine compromised his interpretations of events, specifically with Benji’s teachers and his Benji's stepfather, Butler. Benji had many moments complete and utter disrespect of Butler for the plain reason that he is not his real father. I can see how the fact that Benji's real father abandoning his family could foster harsh feeli ...more
Morgan
Oct 16, 2010 Morgan rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's deceptively slim, which led my students (and me, at first) to think it wouldn't be as complex or challenging as some other pieces we read. But, this book is challenging in different ways--it has a rotating cast of speakers, which can make it tricky to remember their relationship to Benjie, the "protagonist," and the urban slang and dialect can be challenging as well. But, I love how Childress critiques education, urban life, fatherhood, the role of teachers, Black National ...more
Mandy
This book is memorable because I chose it for my first book report in 6th grade...the book is about an inner-city kid and the language includes some adult words - most importantly the F-word. My mom flipped through the book and then flipped out - she gave the librarians more than a piece of her mind and even tried to get the book banned from our school...I was absolutely mortified. I became fast friends with the librarians, who would save books for me under the circulation desk and if it was som ...more
Harambe Lives
Dec 04, 2016 Harambe Lives rated it liked it
Not just summarizing the book and going over every detail and say how "amazing" "exiting" each event was i will talk about how the book spoke to me. I enjoyed this book despite my first impression of the title. this really was a journey to another world first of all because of the book revolving around Benjies heroin addiction. I am blessed that not i or my family has used or been addicted to drugs. It was interesting to see how a person who has never used drugs like me could easily fall down th ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read that gets right to the heart of the matter regarding a heroin-addicted 13-year-old boy. It is presented as a collection of statements by the boy himself and the other people in his life. There is a moment or two in the book where it appears to be headed in an unrealistic direction, but then the story line, the characters, and the reader are brought back to reality.

Written 36 years ago, this book for young adults focuses on violence and drugs that now seem mild compared to the change
...more
Marcia S
Nov 11, 2011 Marcia S rated it really liked it
The language in the book was a little hard to follow at first. Reading the story from the characters view gave a more in depth view of the psychological thinking’s & personal troubles of the characters. This book made me feel many emotions from laughter from a funny joke made by one of the characters; anger due to the situations that many of the characters were facing as well as sadness due to the struggles the young boy was facing and knowing that there are far too many Benjie’s in the worl ...more
LaVonne
Jan 15, 2016 LaVonne rated it liked it
A young boy named Benjie is using heroin, but he believes he can shake the habit any time he wants. He doesn't think its a big deal and isn't like the other drug users that are addicted. He lives with his Mother, Grandmother, and Stepfather, yet feels like no one believes in him. All Benjie really wants is for someone to believe in him, especially because his father baled on him when he was very young. The book is told from the perspectives of the important people in Benjies life including himse ...more
Jamie
Jan 07, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing
I liked the shifting narrators and the depth of each POV; each person's story helped me understand the circumstances that led up to and continued through Benjie's story. I liked the historical context--I have a sense for early 1970s NY now. This book is essentially about addiction and the devastation it causes in individuals and communities; and it's about the role of autonomy within family systems. The slang is something that takes getting used to, but I think this is a very valuable quick read ...more
Madison Petersen
Jan 14, 2016 Madison Petersen rated it liked it
This book was extremely difficult for me to get in a flow of reading just because of the language it is written in. There is a lot of slang used and it is hard to read. It is about a boy by the name of Benjie who has become addicted to heroin. The book shows the view point of many characters and there thoughts on each other and Benjie and how they want to help him. I think it would be a difficult book for young adult readers, but I think the topics that the book introduces many topics that would ...more
Drew
Jan 16, 2016 Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, fiction
With simplified language and transparency of motives, young adult novels can sometimes read like fables. Wow, what a wonderful one "A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich" is! Alice Childress' page-turning tale of a young black boy slowly getting hooked on dope is a poignant, heartrending snapshot of many of America's ongoing, great divides -- cultural, racial, generational, economic -- as experienced by one "inner city" black family struggling to keep it together in a society that doesn't give a da ...more
Viktoriya Tsoy
Jun 28, 2014 Viktoriya Tsoy rated it liked it
This book is pretty dated, and as extreme the racial relations in this book are, I can say in New York - there are still these issues present. I had some difficulty with the language, or urban words I should say, for example I kept reading chile as chili ( as in the pepper ) when it meant child. So yeah, thats tough especially if you didn't grow u around slang. The story is worth a read, and is quite engaging, but unfortunately not my favorite as far as "urban" writing. A good book to read with ...more
Candace Andrews
Jan 30, 2016 Candace Andrews rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when I took a young adult fiction class in college, and it remains my favorite young adult novel. It concerns Benjie, a black teenager addicted to heroin and those who care about him. What I especially like about this novel is that each chapter is told in first person point of view by the different major characters so that the reader can see how each character views Benjie's problem differently—Benjie's teacher sees Benjie's addiction one way, his mother another, his step– ...more
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Alice Childress (October 12, 1916 – August 14, 1994) was an American playwright, actor, and author.

She took odd jobs to pay for herself, including domestic worker, photo retoucher, assistant machinist, saleslady, and insurance agent. In 1939, she studied Drama in the American Negro Theatre (ANT), and performed there for 11 years. She acted in Abram Hill and John Silvera's On Strivers Row (1940), T
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More about Alice Childress...

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“One day I almost said it . . . after goin over the words in my mind, "Benjie, the greatest thing in the world is to love someone and they love you too." But when I opened my mouth, I said, "Benjie, brush the crumbs off your jacket.” 1 likes
“Schoolteachers can be some hard-eyed people, with talkin eyes; they mouth sayin one thing and them eyes be screamin another.” 1 likes
More quotes…