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

Extended Audio Sample The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream Audiobook, 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 Keefe Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2009 ISBN: 9780739382929
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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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/5/2014

    " The details from Golden Venture case are so chilling, they read like fiction. This is an important and thrilling book about international human smuggling involving one area of China, but one that links the world together. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 1/3/2014

    " So much action and intrigue! A great, interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marina | 11/14/2013

    " Fascinating tale of human trafficking combined with the attitudes of acceptable losses that come with different cultures. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stacy Lewis | 11/8/2013

    " Very interesting story of human smuggling. It uses Chinese human smuggling as an example, but covers the vast topic of illegal immigration using smuggling. Immigration policy of the U.S. is highlighted, particularly how it encourages human smuggling to occur. Very interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Neil | 11/5/2013

    " fnatastic writer! great research on Chinese immigrants and human smuggling. A good read if you are trying to understand their culture and the culture of people on the move (not by choice). Now I am curious about the influx of Chinese people in to the US today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 11/2/2013

    " Certainly gives you a look at the complexities of human trafficking. Interesting and informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christy Buhr | 10/16/2013

    " I give it 3-1/2+ stars. Review coming... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dasha | 4/28/2013

    " Spectacular. Fascinating topic and great writing. What more could you want? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sean Hanley | 12/7/2011

    " A page-turner of a book! I'm working on a film with Fujinese people at the moment, and had no idea there was a global human smuggling operation in the late 80s, 90s that brought many of these people into NYC. Put a bit of the world into perspective for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 7/29/2011

    " This is a good read about the Chinatown trafficking and corruption in New York. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenny | 4/25/2011

    " A very interesting new book about human smuggling and Chinese immigration to the U.S. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robin | 3/31/2011

    " very well written, and informative. highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 12/14/2010

    " very in-depth and intriguing. great reportage. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melanie | 11/30/2010

    " Excellent nonfiction. Suspenseful, detailed, great story. An interesting look at modern immigration to America. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nicola | 11/29/2010

    " This has everything an excellent piece of nonfiction should have: Painstaking attention to detail, suspenseful writing and a topic so interesting and thought provoking you'll be thinking about it long after you put the book down. Loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Neil | 11/22/2010

    " fnatastic writer! great research on Chinese immigrants and human smuggling. A good read if you are trying to understand their culture and the culture of people on the move (not by choice). Now I am curious about the influx of Chinese people in to the US today. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Connie | 8/8/2010

    " slow reading but fascinating story about illegal Chinese immigration "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 7/10/2010

    " This is a good read about the Chinatown trafficking and corruption in New York. "

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About the Author
Author Patrick Radden KeefePATRICK RADDEN KEEFE is a fellow at The Century Foundation and the author of Chatter. He is a graduate of Columbia College, Cambridge University, the London School of Economics, and Yale Law School, and the recipient of a Marshall Scholarship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A regular contributor to The New Yorker, Slate, and many other publications, he is also a frequent commentator on NPR, the BBC, and CNN.