Book Launch

The Block Manager: A True Story of Love in the Midst of Japanese American Internment Camps

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.

Read the honorary proclamation from the mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, naming May 7, 2019, Janice Hattori Koizumi Day, in recognition of her bravery and kindness.

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.

Read the IBPA interview to learn more about Open Books Press and how "Janet" from the book received an honorary proclamation from the City of St. Louis.

Advance Praise

“Judy Mundle was astounded when a Japanese American work colleague—rendered here as Janet Hayashi—confided that she had been a block manager at an American internment camp during World War II. In this poignant memoir, she reveals the shocking truth about life in the camps. . . .

“Engaging and informative, this book is an intimate glimpse of her Japanese culture, delivering understanding regarding inmates’ mindsets, responses, and attitudes. Hayashi’s emotionally charged narrative is disturbing in its harsh accounts of life in the shadow of the machine gun towers. . . . Despite adversity, men are seen planting gardens; women, doing their best to create privacy and a sense of home; children being born, learning, and playing; and people, including Janet and the man who became her husband, falling in love. Their stories are a legacy and a warning for a troubled world.”

—Kristine Morris, Foreword Reviews, July/August 2019

"Throughout, Koizumi depended on what she calls gaman, which her account translates as 'patience with dignity.' As the war progressed and Allied victory seemed assured, she saw 'the conflicted emotions in the eyes of so many. After these long years, the Japanese had become dependent on the government for their room and board and management of their lives. For us, freedom meant challenges for basic survival in a world where we feared we would still be outcasts.' . . . Years later, after living in postwar Japan, Koizumi would also settle in the St. Louis area. Her husband died in 1993, but her son earned several college degrees and succeeded, thanks in large part to his mother’s gaman—and guts."

—Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Mundle guides us through a post-war landscape as apocalyptic—and enduring—as any dystopian film. Only it’s a true story which nearly cost Janet, her husband, and their young son their lives. The Block Manager is a book that will provoke both tears and laughs. You will walk away with a different conception of World War II, and how we treat our own citizens in wartime, than you had before opening the book. It is brilliant. It sticks with you. Bravo to Janet for sharing her story, and Judy Mundle for her ingenuity in presenting it.”

—Robert Yehling, Crawl of Fame, Just Add Water, and When We Were the Boys