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

In this thrilling panorama of real life events, Patrick Radden Keefe investigates a secret world run by a surprising criminal a charismatic middle aged grandmother, who from a tiny noodle shop in New York s Chinatown managed a multi million dollar business smuggling people Keefe reveals the inner workings of Sister Ping s complex empire and recounts the decade long FBI iIn this thrilling panorama of real life events, Patrick Radden Keefe investigates a secret world run by a surprising criminal a charismatic middle aged grandmother, who from a tiny noodle shop in New York s Chinatown managed a multi million dollar business smuggling people Keefe reveals the inner workings of Sister Ping s complex empire and recounts the decade long FBI investigation that eventually brought her down He follows an often incompetent and sometimes corrupt INS as it pursues desperate immigrants risking everything to come to America, and along the way, he paints a stunning portrait of a generation of illegal immigrants and the intricate underground economy that sustains and exploits them Grand in scope yet propulsive in narrative force, The Snakehead is both a kaleidoscopic crime story and a brilliant exploration of the ironies of immigration in America.
The Snakehead An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream In this thrilling panorama of real life events Patrick Radden Keefe investigates a secret world run by a surprising criminal a charismatic middle aged grandmother who from a tiny noodle shop in New

  • Title: The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream
  • Author: Patrick Radden Keefe
  • ISBN: 9780307279279
  • Page: 166
  • Format: Paperback
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      Published :2018-05-13T15:31:46+00:00

    About the Author

    Patrick Radden Keefe

    Patrick Radden Keefe is the author of The Snakehead An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream Doubleday, July 2009 , which Kirkus calls a panoramic, international true crime adventure, and Publishers Weekly calls brillianta must read He writes frequently for The New Yorker, Slate, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines, and works as a fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive policy think tank in Washington, DC Patrick is also the author of Chatter Uncovering the Echelon Surveillance Network and the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping Random House, 2005.

    481 Comment

    • Nancy Oakes said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      According to the author, a "snakehead" is someone who charges a huge amount of money to "take people out of China and into other countries." This book focuses on one of these people, Sister Ping, who came to the US legally and then proceeded to cash in on every opportunity she could, including smuggling human beings into the country for millions in profit. It was the wreck of the ship Golden Venture near Rockaway NY in 1993 in which several people died that captured the attention of the Federal [...]

    • David Quinn said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      All of the elements of a thriller are here (murder, corruption, double-crosses, huge sums of cash, intimidation, among others) but it really doesn’t read that way. Instead it’s more of a sweeping view of the snakehead trade between Fujian Province, China and Chinatown in Manhattan. In particular we learn about a small handful of major players in the late 80s and early 90s.The author writes extremely well and, quite similar to Sebastian Junger, has an informatively digressive style. He never [...]

    • Jens said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      I'm biased - I know and like the author very much. But I can say with assurance that this is a great book. The story is captivating - it's a page turner, which isn't always easy with ambitious non-fiction. I found it's not the best book to curl up with if you want to go to sleep. But it's a great book to get to sucked into. The subject - human smuggling - is a good one. Despite my interest in managing transnational problems, I read the book knowing very little about the subject. The book provide [...]

    • Sam Mlyniec said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      The Snakehead provides a thorough and well researched look at both sides of the immigration fence. Keefe does a very good job of explaining the political and social complexities that lie behind American immigration policy. Keefe also shows the constancy of demand for human smuggling and the difficulty of combating such smuggling in a modern and increasingly globalized economy. Keefe asserts human smuggling exists in a nebulous territory between illegality and socially acceptable behavior and the [...]

    • Sheila said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Positively superb account of Chinese human smuggling in the 80s and 90s. A riveting tale that captures the enticing drama of organized crime, the moral complexities of immigration enforcement, and the insufferable measures people endure to achieve the American dream. Perfection.

    • Karen said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      An exhaustively researched look at the human smuggling trade, focusing on the disastrous arrival of the Golden Venture and the way it unraveled one of the biggest players in the business, an otherwise humble Chinese woman who for years held thousands of people travel around the world to start a new life in the U.S. or Canada. Radden Keefe is a writer up to the task of writing action scene, sprawling exposition and deep dives into policy. He has a novelist's gift for description and I'm not sure [...]

    • Brenna said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      I would have been much more into this had it been a longform article and not an entire book. Well-researched and competently written, but I was pretty bored throughout and skimmed a lot.

    • Crystal said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Fascinating account of the world we don't see when we stop by Chinatown for noodles and soup.

    • Desirae said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      2.5 stars

    • Michael Connolly said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Fujian ( 福 建) Province:There is not much arable land in Fujian Province in China. It is mostly mountains and the coast. Its coast is opposite Taiwan. Fujianese are also called Fukienese. Many Fukinese have gone abroad for opportunity. Little Fuzhou:In the 1980s New York's Chinatown, traditionally Cantonese, became more Fukinese. Men emigrated from Fukien Province first, then sent for their wives and children after they had established themselves in the United States. The New York City Fukine [...]

    • Amy said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Abandoned. Frustrating due to over dramatic and simplification of asylum law, as well as meandering and overly long.

    • Nils said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Patrick Radden Keefe offers a brilliant, page-turning account of the rise of the Fukienese Chinatown in New York in the early 1990s, focusing on the horrific case of the 1993 crash of a ship in Brooklyn that contained hundreds of terrified Chinese trying to reach New York using the services of Sister Ping, the leading "Snakehead" or person-smuggler, who then successfully went on the lam for years evading responsibility for her role in the disaster, which killed over a dozen of the would-be immig [...]

    • Tara said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Sister Ping, the "snakehead" human smuggler at the center of this book, earned an estimated $40 million moving illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States. This story centers around her and one boat in particular, the Golden Venture, full of Fujianese travelers seeking a better life in the United States. In 1993, that boat ran aground in the Rockaways in Queens and 300 desperate people spilled out. At the time, the government decided to make an example out of the group, deporting many of t [...]

    • Grace Kao said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Excellent non-fiction read on Sister Ping, the Chinese human smuggling trade, and what it means to want to become "American" - whatever that means. Absolutely top-notch journalism.

    • David said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      “Any international effort to regulate clandestine international trade, whether of drugs, guns, or people, will be only as good as the least vigilant nation in the system.” -- p. 276On the one hand, this is a pretty depressing tale of every country in the world (and often groups within these countries) wishing to be the world's free rider, hoping that (if everyone collectively squeezes their eyes shut tightly enough) other countries will do the dirty work, e.g accepting problem migrants, taki [...]

    • H said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      To Ah Kay, the lives of his own countrymen were cheap and expendable; the authorities took no notice when it was expunged, and killing Fujianese made him not a pariah in the neighborhood, but a known comer, a young man on the rise. (68)The original Chinese triads had been steeped in secret ritual and byzantine codes of conduct and allegiance, but there were no blood oaths among the Asian gangs in America. Rather, Chinatown's heroin dealers and human smugglers, its racket men and pimps, thought o [...]

    • Daisy said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      The Chinese came to United States, mainly western regions to dig the gold. But the gold rush began to dissipate almost as quickly as it had begun. Then the Chinese in US had been taxed as foreign miners and then driven out of this business. The railroads the Chinese helped to build had enabled the Americans from the East to travel by train to the west and started looking for jobs here in the west. Those Americans started to blame the Chinese for taking away their job. Then on May 6, 1882, the go [...]

    • Paul Pessolano said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      At this time in our history the subject of "illegal immigration" comes up on an almost daily basis. "The Snakehead" is the story of illegal immigration that was occurring in the 1980's. There was an almost unbelievable influx of Chinese into this country and the bulk of them coming from the Fujian Province.In New York's Chinatown, a middle aged woman by the name of Sister Ping ran a $40 million dollar smuggling business from a tiny noddle store. Sister Ping came from the Fujian Province and smug [...]

    • Lynh said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      This book focuses narrowly on the immigration of mainly Fujianese into America, but touches on America's love-hate history with immigrants. It's part crime story, part political commentary. I learned that for a while, most of the Chinese people in NY's Chinatown came from Fujian, an area about the same size as Delaware. And that because there are Chinese Restaurants everywhere - even in African Countries in the midst of civil war, or small towns in Ohio - Chinese immigrants usually have a pretty [...]

    • J. Hamlet said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      The Snakehead is a curious book for anyone interested in the general subject of immigration. Taking place mostly throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s, it tells the true and engrossing story of many of Chinatown's underworld figures that were involved in the "human smuggling" of Chinese immigrants. I found the whole subject of "human smuggling" fascinating because, familiar only with "human trafficking," a wholly different beast, "human smuggling" is a cornerstone of illegal immigration in America, w [...]

    • Josephine said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Why do people risk their lives and willingly go into debt to live life in the shadows as illegal immigrants? And who are the people who enable this dangerous venture? In Patrick Radden Keefe’s “The Snakehead”, he writes about a young Chinese reference librarian who joins a local band of activists rallying around a group of Chinese detainees. The activist, Radden Keefe writes, understood the detainees’ reasons for leaving China — after all, they were the same as his: “a lack of opport [...]

    • Matt said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      This one has been hanging out there, ready to be read by me for about a year since it first got all that attention, and I don't think this disappointed.I was a senior in college when the Golden Vantage first ran aground, and I was talking to a college friend of mine yesterday, and neither one of us remember this happening, which is kind of a little shocking when you think about it. But Keefe here does a really good job of building up to the event, and then tracing where it went from there-- it i [...]

    • Audrey said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      I was entirely captivated by this book--it smuggled me in, get it? Seriously, I was in awe about how the "Snakehead" (term used for individuals who smuggled Chinese mainly into the US) Sister Ping created such a extensive, extremely lucrative system of smuggling. It was a wonder how she had so much time and reserves to have all these hideouts and schemes while running a successful business in Chinatown. The book centers around the GOLDEN VENTURE boat filled with smuggled Chinese folks (which Sis [...]

    • Carly said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      This book is a well-researched, well-written history of the criminal enterprise of human smuggling, made personal through its focus on the exodus of Chinese from Fujian province in the 80s and 90s. It's a moving story of the risks and sacrifices people are willing to make to pursue the American dream -- including potentially their own lives; including decades of doing the lowest labor in the underground economy. That entrepreneurial individuals sought and continue to seek to capitalize on this t [...]

    • Dennis said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Fantastic book.It is a engrossing read.Mr Keefe has done an excellent job depicting the Snakehead trade. The ship full of illegals crashing to shore is only a small glimpse of the story that unfolds.At times I was inspired by the Fujianese people. But was reminded frequently throughout the book that it was an illegal enterprise. At times this was a hard truth to swallow. The scope of the book is vast, but I felt it was well put together. The Dramatis Personae at the beginning gives you a snapsho [...]

    • Laura C. said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      This book, by Patric Keefe, is the meticulously researched and documented story of human smuggling into the United States from China. Keefe tells the story dispassionately, from the middle, when a boat full of Chinese refugees goes purposely aground off of Rockaway New York on June 6, 1993. He takes us both forward and backward from there, showing us the complexities of the immigration story from both sides of the table, both politically and culturally. It is a fine feat to let the story do the [...]

    • Christina said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Very interesting look at the sophisticated world of Chinese immigration and organized crime. I was impressed with many cultural ideas that are different from my own. For example, immigrants pay a snakehead up to $40,000 to smuggle them into the U.S. They pay a small fee of a few thousand to start the process, then once here, their relatives pay the remainder. Chinese extended family ties are so strong that they pay the debt on behalf of their newly-arrived cousin and then the cousin pays them ba [...]

    • Jill Hutchinson said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      This is the fascinating true story of the "snakeheads", those NYC Chinatown based purveyors of human traffic from China. I had not realized the number of people who were fleeing from China in the 1990s and the extent of the network of human smugglers who were making millions of dollars from this business. The major player in this nefarious business was the infamous Sister Ping, an unassuming Chinese woman who owned a restaurant in Chinatown. She reached legendary status with those that she broug [...]

    • Sarah said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      Fascinating book about smuggling immigrants from China to the US. The book is very well written. It uses the tragedy of the Golden Venture, a ship of immigrants that dramatically sunk off the coast of NYC, to explore the entire snakehead business of human smuggling: masterminds whose sophisticated networks spanned the globe, Chinatown gangsters who supported the business as side jobs, various government agents who worked to break it up, lawyers, activists, and bureaucrats who tried to keep the i [...]

    • Diane said:
      Aug 21, 2018 - 15:31 PM

      One of the best non-fiction books I have read. I was impressed with his research, the organization of the book, and the author's ability to explain complex legal and social issues clearly. It is one of the few non-fiction books that I read to the very end with relish. I almost want to advise you to read the epilogue first - it is a masterful summary - but if you want some elements of suspense, you should not take my advice. I even read the acknowledgments and source notes with interest.The books [...]

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