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Download The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underground and the American Dream Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underground and the American Dream, by Patrick Radden Keefe Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (498 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Patrick Radden Keefe Narrator: Patrick Radden Keef Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Chuck | 2/20/2014

    " Page-turner about human smuggling and the Chinatown mob. In 1993 a ship ran around off Rockaway Beach, and a hundred or so emaciated Chinese jumped overboard; several drowned. From the investigation into that incident Keefe traces the stories of emigrants, law enforcement, murderers, and the little old lady who ran the whole show. Fascinating. Plus it explains the origin of the Chinatown bus lines. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Connie | 1/20/2014

    " slow reading but fascinating story about illegal Chinese immigration "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Laura | 1/16/2014

    " Loved it. Interesting, detail oriented story of Chinese illegal migration into the US. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Lainie | 1/14/2014

    " Interesting study on the personalities that drive human smuggling and the political and economic contexts that drive people to leave China in particular. Fascinating find was that many of the Chinese illegal immigrants (and legals as well) view the smugglers as pillars of society risking alot to bring opportunity to those who can pay to be smuggled. The book did gloss over extortion and other abuses that take place upon arrival in the US though. Overall it seemed thoroughly researched and was eye opening. "

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