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

by Patrick Radden Keefe

$24.99

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

by Patrick Radden Keefe

$24.99

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. 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 business that earned an estimated $40 million, 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. 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.

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.

Book Information

  • ISBN: 9781529099881
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pub Date: 31/10/2023
  • Category: Biography & True Stories / True crime
    Literature & literary studies / Reportage & collected journalism
    Society & social sciences / Organized crime
    New York
  • Imprint: Picador
  • Pages: 448
  • Price: $24.99

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America. 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 business that earned an estimated $40 million, 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. 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.

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.

Author Information

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty - winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as well as two previous critically-acclaimed books, The Snakehead, and Chatter. He is the writer and host of the eight-part podcast Wind of Change on the origins of the Scorpions' power ballad, which The Guardian named the #1 podcast of 2020.

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