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The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream | [Patrick Radden Keefe]

The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream

A mesmerizing narrative about the rise and fall of an unlikely international crime boss. Based on hundreds of interviews, Patrick Radden Keefe's sweeping narrative tells the story not only of Sister Ping, but of the gangland gunslingers who worked for her, the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the generation of penniless immigrants who risked death and braved a 17,000 mile odyssey so that they could realize their own version of the American dream.
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Publisher's Summary

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. Like other immigrant groups before them, they showed up with little money but with an intense work ethic and an unshakeable belief in the promise of the United States. Many of them lived in a world outside the law, working in a shadow economy overseen by the ruthless gangs that ruled the narrow streets of New York's Chinatown.

The figure who came to dominate this Chinese underworld was a middle-aged grandmother known as Sister Ping. Her path to the American dream began with an unusual business run out of a tiny noodle store on Hester Street. From her perch above the shop, Sister Ping ran a full-service underground bank for illegal Chinese immigrants. But her real business - a business that earned an estimated $40 million - was smuggling people.

As a "snakehead", she built a complex and often vicious global conglomerate, relying heavily on familial ties, and employing one of Chinatown's most violent gangs to protect her power and profits. Like an underworld CEO, Sister Ping created an intricate smuggling network that stretched from Fujian Province to Hong Kong to Burma to Thailand to Kenya to Guatemala to Mexico. Her ingenuity and drive were awe-inspiring both to the Chinatown community, where she was revered as a homegrown Don Corleone, and to the law enforcement officials who could never quite catch her.

Indeed, Sister Ping's empire only came to light in 1993 when the Golden Venture, a ship loaded with 300 undocumented immigrants, ran aground off a Queens beach. It took New York's fabled "Jade Squad" and the FBI nearly 10 years to untangle the criminal network and home in on its unusual mastermind.

The Snakehead is a panoramic tale of international intrigue and a dramatic portrait of the underground economy in which America's 12 million illegal immigrants live.

©2009 Patrick Radden Keefe; (P)2009 Random House

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    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 08-23-09
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 08-23-09 Member Since 2005
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    "But Is It a Crime?"

    Patrick Keefe has written a wonderfully informative book about illegal immigration of Chinese into the U.S. This work balances the stereotypical view of illegal immagration as a "Mexican" thing alone. The ramifications for immigration policy, Homeland Security, and providing healthcare to the undocumented are never far from the reader's mind.

    This is the story of one "Sister Ping" and her trafficing of Fujianese into the U.S. If you are looking for elegant language, you may not find it here. If you are looking to understand the immigration issue in a broader context, this is the book for you. If you are just a concerned voter and want to understand the immigration issue, don't miss this book.

    For those interested in true crime, this is an interesting read as well. Those interested in reading further about international crime might also try "The Accountant's Story" by Roberto Escobar and "Gomarrah" by Roberto Saviano. All three books are informative, well read and available from Audible.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Manuel Middle Village, NY, USA 12-03-09
    Manuel Middle Village, NY, USA 12-03-09
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    "Highly Recommended!!"

    This book is a phenomenal account of human smuggling in modern day New York. The book is incredibly well written and well read. The story takes you through the lives of the smugglers and the smuggled, the law enforcement decisions and the immigration consequences. It is a truly moving work that will forever change the way you look at Chinatown NYC.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    despinne 12-17-11
    despinne 12-17-11 Member Since 2000
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    "Little Old Ladies Are Criminals Too"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Snakehead to be better than the print version?

    I vaguely remember the news about the leading incident in the book, wherein a ship wrecks and discharges its payload of would-be immigrants on a riverbank in NYC, as close to its destination as possible. The story about the search for the ultimate head of the business, who turns out to be a Chinese grandmother businesswoman who sees herself as helping her neighbors (at $30,000 a pop) is enlightening, particularly now when most of the news stories are about immigrants smuggled over the US-Mexican border. Not only Mexicans are being smuggled via that route, and it's been said Kazakh nuclear weapons could be brought in. Just yesterday, in Russia, an Iranian was caught trying to smuggle nuclear material out of the country by airplane--he was released, but his material stayed in the country. For how long? The US government hires minimum wage flunkeys to


    What other book might you compare The Snakehead to and why?

    I've never seen any similar book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    newmama 08-19-09
    newmama 08-19-09 Listener Since 2009
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    "Interesting and more"

    Very entertaining! Great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lewis Clayton Jr. 01-05-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Save your credit"

    The book uses about three or four times as much info as is needed.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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