Photos of the book launch event will be posted shortly. If you have photos from the event you would like to share, please email us.
May 7, 2019 is now officially Janice Hattori Koizumi Day in the City of St. Louis. Koizumi is a Japanese American woman, whose experiences of 20 years before, during, and after World War II are told in The Block Manager: A True Story of Love in the Midst of Japanese American Internment Camps (Open Books Press, Paperback ISBN: 978-1-941799-66-6, Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-941799-67-3). Over 200 people attended the book launch at the Missouri Botanical Garden, where an honorary proclamation from St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson was read to kick off the event. Author Judy Mundle’s remarks drew both laughter and tears from the crowd as she recounted her friendship with the now 99-year-old Koizumi and how Mundle came to write her story. A diverse crowd illustrated the wide-ranging appeal of the book, from those interested in the history of how America treated her own citizens, to those of Japanese descent, to those intrigued by the story of a resilient, strong, and truly kind woman who found herself in incredibly challenging circumstances.
Open Books Press Publisher Jennifer Geist said, “This was our most successful book launch event in our 15 years. It was touching to see all of the support from friends and family of both Mundle and Koizumi, with some people traveling from as far as California to attend the release. We completely sold out of our entire first and took orders for more to be delivered later.”
The beautiful Japanese Garden was created by friends and family of interred Japanese Americans as a thank-you to St. Louis. Many Japanese Americans, after leaving internment camps in Arkansas, took trains to Chicago. When they had to stop at St. Louis Union Station, a crowd of St. Louisians welcomed them, giving them food and promising to help them find work and a place to live. The trains left empty on their route to Chicago—all of the Japanese Americans chose to stay in St. Louis.
One of those families was that of Koizumi (referred to as Janet Hayashi in the book), an American-born child of Japanese immigrants. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Koizumi’s life in California was uprooted when thousands of Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forced into internment camps. Because of her brilliant command of English and Japanese, she was assigned the job of block manager. Koizumi was shuffled between three camps, got married, and had a child while the war raged on.
After enduring the psychological strain of forced incarceration, her very survival was threatened when she joined her husband in post-war Japan as famine gripped the country. Koizumi remained an American patriot through all her ordeals, holding on to the dream of reuniting with her family in the US. The Block Manager beautifully captures the uncertainty surrounding the internment camps and the gaman—patience with dignity—of the detainees.