Monday, January 17, 2011

"The Snakehead"

"The Snakehead", subtitled "an epic tale of the Chinatown underworld and the American dream" by Patrick Radden Keefe, is great journalism. The drama surrounding and story behind the Golden Venture crash in the Rockaways back in 1993 is riveting stuff. The history of Chinatown tongs, snakeheads, gangsters, and strivers is interesting as well. The examination of the motives, plight, and legal challenges of desperate illegal immigrants who risk everything to chase the "American dream" is thorough and informative. Sister Ping is, in a way, New York Chinatown personified.

Familiarity with most of the nooks and crannys of the New York neighborhoods described was a hook as well as some experience with the culture Chinatown culture. That made the book especially compelling here but this reporting is the best kind of non-fiction, the kind that most fiction, certainly no crime fiction, cannot be viewed as a viable competitor for reader attention.

Everything about this book rings true. The truth is fascinating.


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