She was a banker of sorts, and something else as well. She was what the Chinese call a shetou, or snakehead, a kind of immigration broker who charges steep fees to smuggle people out of China and into other countries. She had pioneered the China-to-Chinatown route in the early 1980s, and from her humble shop on East Broadway she had developed a reputation as one of the most reliable – and successful – snakeheads on the planet.

Chapter One, Page 21

In a nutshell

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In this thrilling investigative journalism piece, Patrick Radden Keefe takes true real life events and turns them into what reads as a novel. This story documents the rise and fall of surprising crime boss Sister Ping, who from a tiny shop in New York’s Chinatown, managed a multimillion-dollar human-smuggling ring. Beyond Sister Ping, the Snakehead is a portrait of a generation of undocumented immigrants and the intricate underground economy that simultaneously sustains and exploits them.

Book Club Notes

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This book excels in turning reporting into expert storytelling. It’s well written, educational, suspenseful and eye opening. There wasn’t one story in the book that I was familiar with and the topic isn’t one that I have previously taken an interest in but it’s delivered so well that you don’t need either to enjoy it.

Read If

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You love learning more about the world, enjoy investigative journalism told in a story format or have an interest in Chinese migration to America.

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Rating

9
Storyline – 10 /10
Writing – 10/10
Likeability – 10/10
Purpose – 5/10
Shareability – 8/10
9.0
9.0Overall Score
A note on our book ratings

Storyline: How good is the storyline? Is it believable and complex or does it make you shake your head in its ridiculousness?

Writing: How well written is the book? Do you find yourself wowed by the writing or unimpressed?

Likeability: Are the characters likeable, relatable, imparting something of value?

Purpose: Is there a clear purpose to the story being shared or is it better suited as a personal project for a family keepsake?

Shareability: How likely are you to share the book?

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