2016 Christine Leigh Heyrman, American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam (Hill and Wang)
American Apostles is a work of surpassing interest and power. On the one hand, it vividly evokes the very particular ethos of 19th-century American evangelicals. On the other, it speaks, at least indirectly, to central issues and concerns of our own time. It achieves this bridging feat by way of meticulous research, shrewd analysis, and supple, elegantly evocative prose. Indeed, American Apostles exemplifies all those craft skills that the Parkman Prize is especially meant to honor.
The story of the first Protestant missions to Muslim populations in the Middle East is inherently compelling, and Heyrman makes the most of it. Both characters and events come alive in her capable hands. Moreover, at a deeper level American Apostles is about the transforming effects of human encounter—the way individuals respond to, and are unsettled by, engagement with a range of very different others. This is its generic significance, and why it matters now. To be sure, it offers no exact template for resolving current confrontations—most obviously, the modern Judeo-Christian West in relation to Islam. But it does advance postures of inquiry, sympathy, and humane understanding that transcend time and place.
Heyrman is the Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware. She received her B.A. from Macalester College in 1971 and her Ph.D. from Yale in 1977.