Emily Graff

Emily Graff

Class of 2010, America
Editor, Simon & Schuster
Emily Graff

Thesis Title: “Books Like these are Burned!’: The 1933 Nazi Book Burnings in American Historical Memory

What Now: Editor, Simon & Schuster

Follow Me: @emilycgraff (Instagram)

I started my History & Literature thesis with several questions—about the 1933 Nazi book burnings and the 1943 anniversary of that event, and about an organization called the Council on Books in Wartime. My research left me with more questions--including one I didn’t expect. The historical figures I studied cared deeply about books, and my driving question throughout my studies was why.

What is a book? Is it a thing, an idea, a person? The language of the documents I read from 1933, 1943, 1953 and beyond, begged (again) more questions. Books were more than just weapons in a war of ideas. They allowed readers to connect with authors, people to connect with other people. During World War II, one captain wrote to the Council on Books in Wartime to explain what this felt like. “The last books just arrived and to say I am appreciative is only because my vocabulary doesn’t contain the superlative necessary to describe my feelings,” he said.“We live on books.’” He wrote about books as if they were necessities—like food, air.

Finally, a kind of answer. We describe a book in many ways to try to explain one of the special things it can do: in History & Literature, I learned that it can create, and then sustain, a community.

That's why I became a book editor.