Saturday, August 22, 2009

New York Chinatown Tour - Holga

A few weeks ago I went on a tour of New York's Chinatown with Patrick Radden Keefe author of THE SNAKEHEAD (Doubleday. 2009. $27.50). I was invited by our Random House rep who knows even though I work in a bookstore in Vermont I have a keen interest in China and Chinatowns. Very briefly, Keefe's book is about Cheng Chui Ping aka Sister Ping and her twenty year business of bringing illegal Chinese into the United States. Her base of operation was the Fujian section of New York's Chinatown. The story received national attention when, in 1993, a boat, the Golden Venture, ran a ground in Queens and 300 plus illegal Chinese were forced off the boat. Several died. The book is well researched and well written and I highly recommend it. Keefe's web site for the book is informative, interactive and please visit it. The book has received good reviews in both the English and Chinese language newspapers. New York Magazine folks toured Chinatown with Keefe and wrote an interesting article too.

Keefe told us (a friend from Random House, two people from New York area independent bookstores and myself made up the tour group) he had not included pictures in his book as he wanted the reader to get a rounded view of the people involved in the story. His website does have pictures of many of the people in his book.

Since we were walking with him and he's known in the Chinese community who knew whom we might see on the crowded streets on our tour so I decided not to take pictures in which people could be clearly seen and identified. I decided to put my Holga in bulb mode with meant a longer shutter release so any photos I took on this bright sunny day would be blurry. A friend suggested I say I was going for an artsy interpretative view of our tour.

Columbus Park is overlooked by the Federal Buildings where Sister Ping and the informant Ah Fay were held. This park is frequented by older Cantonese speaking people who exercise here in early mornings then return later in the day to visit with friends and play card games. The women sit in groups on one side of the park while the men gather on the other side. It's a nice park to sit in and rest for awhile and there are public bathrooms too.

The painting with the orange background and tan figures was part of an outdoor art exhibit, America's Chinatown Voices, at Columbus Park. The author is on the right side of this run on blurry photo.

Buildings in the Cantonese section of New York's Chinatown. The Cantonese from Guangdong Province and Southern China settled in Chinatown generations ago. The more recent immigrants are from Fujian Province in Southeast China. The two groups speak different languages (Cantonese and Fujianese) and have different cultural backgrounds.

People walking along East Broadway and apartment buildings in the Fujian section of Chinatown. Bowery is considered division between the Cantonese and Fujian sections of Chinatown.

More buildings along the way in our Snakehead tour.

A less crowded more open area in Chinatown.

One of the more outrageous kidnappings Keefe writes about ended in a shoot out in the Fujianese Benevolent Association, a building much like the one pictured above.

After a long very fun and exciting day in New York I took the train home. The conductor is collecting tickets in this photo.


YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

I remember vaguely reading about the Golden Venture and Sister Ping years -- more than 1 1/2 decades, in fact! -- ago. Can you speculate on why the book's come out now?

sbk said...

hi ytsl,

It took 10 years or so to capture and bring Sister Ping to trial. In 2006 the author wrote a long piece for "The New Yorker Magazine" while Sister Ping was on trial. He then did more research and wrote the book.