Extended Audio Sample

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: Feodor Chin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2009 ISBN: 9781415963234
Regular Price: $20.95 Add to Cart
— or —
BEST PRICE!
FlexPass™ Price: $17.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

A mesmerizing narrative about the rise and fall of an unlikely international crime boss

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 ten 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 twelve million illegal immigrants live. 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. The Snakehead offers an intimate tour of life on the mean streets of Chinatown, a vivid blueprint of organized crime in an age of globalization and a masterful exploration of the ways in which illegal immigration affects us all.

www.doubleday.com Download and start listening now!

BK_RAND_001928

Quotes & Awards

  • Additional Quotes TK (by 4.20)
  • THE SNAKEHEAD achieves what only the finest reporting can: it peels back an astonishing hidden world. Keefe takes the reader on a spellbinding journey from peasant farms in Asia to the treacherous high seas to the violent streets of Chinatown-a journey that will forever change your understanding of what it means to become an American. David Grann, the author of THE LOST CITY OF Z
  • In Keefe's steady hand, the history of immigration to America is brought to life with the story of Chinese sojourners who arrive in a strange new land. You will pick it up for the drama it promises, but you will read it for the warmth and humanity it delivers. Sudhir Venkatesh, author of GANG LEADER FOR A DAY

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 2/9/2014

    " This was good. I was going to give it three stars but decided that since I read it in two sittings, it must merit four. The dramatic sequence of a ship full of smuggled Chinese immigrants running aground in NYC and their perilous journey around the world is a great opening. Later, the book focuses more on legal maneuvering and the eventual punishments handed down to two main "snakeheads" (smugglers). The narrative bogs down a bit, but is revived by stories of what happened to the passengers of the ship that ran aground. I think U.S. policymakers should keep one outcome in mind: Of the roughly 100 passengers who were deported back to China, nearly all of them ended up back in the U.S., regardless of the expense and possibility of additional jail time in doing so illegally, again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura C. | 1/21/2014

    " 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 teaching, and Mr Keefe has done this. I was particularly struck by the cultural disconnect that makes a snakehead (slang for a person who organizes the journey) a saint to the Chinese community, and a felon to U. S. authorities. For instance, Americans see each life as precious, and our criminal justice system is based on the ideal of justice for the individual. The Chinese philosophical viewpoint is one of acceptable risk. There are just so many people, and some may die, but for the lucky ones, a better life may be won by taking the terrible gamble. The book offers no solutions. No matter which side of the argument you are on, remember this: you can never destroy humankinds' dream of a better life, and only a fool discounts culture. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Remi | 1/21/2014

    " Loved it. Very informative but without being dry. The author managed to capture the emotion and thought of every party involved in this incident without making it corny either. The man definitely did his homework. But what I think I admired most was how well he managed to stay in the middle of the issue. He was sympathetic to the plight of illegal Chinese immigrants (the abject poverty, the racism) but still managed to be pragmatic: illegal immigration taxes our system...but the system we have in place to handle it is very flawed. I hope he'll be writing more true stories because I'm officially a fan. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Risa | 1/19/2014

    " Fascinating story. Keefe is either a thorough researcher or a skilled liar. I'm betting on the former. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stacy Lewis | 1/17/2014

    " 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 Jonathan Hamlet | 1/16/2014

    " 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, whether from Latin America or from Asia and consists of people who enter into indentured servitude to come to America, often paying fortunes to do so. This is distinguishable from the slavery-like conditions of human trafficking which often relies on deceit and violence in order to force people into sweatshop labor and prostitution. Not that there isn't plenty of violence and deceit in human smuggling, but the Snakehead explains in depth the difference between the two and what it all means for immigration. The Snakehead tells a series of interwoven stories from a bunch of different perspectives. It lays out, in often gruesome detail, the travesties that Chinese immigrants would endure to come to America, and the often sizable debts to shady and unforgiving people they would incur in doing so. It also tells the story of people who built huge criminal empires and, often, very nearly legitimate business empires based on the fortunes they obtained from being "Snakeheads," the term used for human smugglers. Most fascinating of all, a detailed portrait of how it all interacted with Chinatown organized crime, the rise and decline (in some cases) of Chinatowns in all the major cities in America, and even the proliferation of Chinese restaurants and the infamous Chinatown buses. To people who already know about the origins of all of this, the Snakehead does still have plenty of personal drama and interesting stories about the colorful and often psychologically warped people who entered this business and the tragedies that befell their customers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelsey | 1/10/2014

    " Fascinating, a dense read, but learned so much about illegal immigration through Chinatown and both sides of the story. Definitely would recommend it. I want this to be made into a documentary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Florence | 9/23/2013

    " A well researched and balanced look at the smuggling of human cargo into the US. Mr. Keefe is sympathetic to the courageous Fujianese Chinese refugees who are willing to sacrifice so much to reach a land of greater opportunity, but he rightly condemns those who exploit that desire. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 LuAnn | 9/20/2013

    " Fascinating true story of a Chinese grandmother who is the mastermind in an extensive human smuggling operation. Very well written and lots of insights about the whole illegal immigration issue. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aki | 8/29/2013

    " Super interesting. Reads like a newspaper article. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sean Hanley | 8/19/2013

    " 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 Elizabeth L. | 5/29/2013

    " crackling good read. Balanced reporting and yet still feels like HBO should option it ASAP. Completely absorbing, disturbing and engaging. Read it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anikka | 6/13/2012

    " Crazy interesting and reads more like a suspense novel than non-fiction. Who knew so much went on by way of Chinese immigration in New York, and the rest of the US, in the very recent past? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melanie | 4/13/2012

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

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter Martin | 3/27/2012

    " Absolutely absorbing account of human smuggling and organized crime. Laid out with precision and a story-oriented structure, with a vivid sense of the people involved. Brings to life a news story I recall from when I lived in New York, and provides an incredible amount of detail and history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Connie | 3/22/2012

    " 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 Jane | 4/26/2011

    " Learned a lot about the illegal immigration of Chinese in this country and the huge financial impact it has had. There are lots of facts and history in this book and it's easy to get a bit bogged down but it was worth it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenny | 1/1/2011

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

  • 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. "

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author
Author Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, where he has been a contributor since 2006. A graduate of Yale Law School, he is a non-practicing lawyer and a fellow at The Century Foundation, a policy think tank in Washington, DC. A former Marshall Scholar, he is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

About the Narrator

Feodor Chin, an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator, is an actor classically trained at the American Conservatory Theater and UCLA. His acting career includes numerous credits in film, television, theater, and voice-over.