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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 ·  690 ratings  ·  85 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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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  690 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book, about a 13 year old addicted to heroin, told through his perspective, and the perspectives of his family, teachers, neighbours, etc. Despite being severely dated by the language of the 70’s, this book tells an extremely plausible narrative about how kids get hooked on drugs, about how communities are infiltrated by addiction due to, you guessed it, marginalization, policies, and disenfranchisement, and about how love is not enough. Early Black books for young people about our struggle ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wowwwwwwwwwww a book penned in the 70s but still so relevant today.

Check out my review here:

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
Sep 28, 2007 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
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 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
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
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
Sep 13, 2008 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
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, realistic
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
Alexis Wray
Oct 02, 2015 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! ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen
Slowly working my way through these classic YA novels. This one must have been eye-opening back in the day.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich by Alice Childress falls under the genre of contemporary realistic fiction and is intended for children 13-16 years of age. Due to the drug usage, I would say it is a book meant to children a little older than the typical middle school chapter books. The book won the Lewis Carrol Shelf Award in 1975. The book follows the story of Benjie, a thirteen-year-old heroin addict growing up in Harlem with his mother and her boyfriend. The book is told by many different ...more
Oct 17, 2019 added it
A hero ain’t nothin but a sandwich
By: Alice Childress

The book I read is called “A hero ain’t nothin but a sandwich” it’s by Alice Childress. The story is about a teenage boy named Benjie and how him and his loved ones deal with his drug problem. I really liked this book because it shows the reality of drug addiction and how it affects people and the ones they love.

This book is about Benjie, his mom, stepfather, grandmother, teaches, friends and principal and how they feel about his drug use. T
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Haley Frailey
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: lis-722
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Chase Larson
Sep 25, 2014 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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lis-722
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2012 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
Aug 31, 2015 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
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc-mc, youngadult
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
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
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 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
Harambe Lives
Dec 04, 2016 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
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-books
It was an interesting story of a young boy's drug abuse told from the point-of-view of various people in his life, including his mother, stepfather, drug dealer, teachers, friends, grandmother, and social worker. There are a lot of sad and powerful elements in this story, but the language and references are so dated that the book doesn't hold up for today's young readers. It was an important book during its time and because it's a benchmark piece of YA literature, you can still find it among con ...more
Sep 07, 2011 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
Marcia S
Nov 11, 2011 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 world.
Jan 07, 2013 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 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
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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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