Charleston, South Carolina
October 12,1920–August 14,1994
A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich
“When the social agitation of the 1960s brought about the development of a new genre of hard-hitting problem novels aimed specifically at teenage readers, editor F. N. Monjo challenged playwright Alice Childress to devote her writing skills to a book for young readers. The result was A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich, which is such a powerful book that it helped shape the new genre as well as bring it respect,” according to Alleen Pace Nilsen.
Sandwich tells the story of Benjie, an inner-city boy on the brink of becoming a heroin addict. He says, “Now I am thirteen, but when I was a chile, it was hard to be a chile because my block is a tough block and my school is a tough school. I'm not trying to cop out on what I do or don't do cause man is man and chile is chile, but I ain't a chile no more. Don't nobody wanta be no chile cause, for some reason, it just hold you back in a lotta ways. …
“My block ain't no place to be a chile in peace. Somebody gonna cop your money and might knowk you don cause you walkin with short bread and didn't even make it worth their while to stop and frisk you over. Ain't no letrit light bulb in my hallway for two three floors and we livin up next to the top floor. You best get over bein seven or eight, right soon, cause seven and eight is too big for relatives to be holdin your hand like when you was three, four, and five. No, Jack, you on your own and they got they thing to do, like workin, or goin to court, or seein after they gas and letrit bills, and they dispossess—or final notice, bout on-time payments—and like that, you dig?”
Benjie's mother, Rose, is so busy working to support her son and his grandmother that she has no time to give him moral guidance. Benjie is reluctant to trust his mother's new boyfriend, Butler Craig,