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Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees

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For 30 years Roger Fouts has pioneered communication with chimpanzees through sign language--beginning with a mischievous baby chimp named Washoe. This remarkable book describes Fout's odyssey from novice researcher to celebrity scientist to impassioned crusader for the rights of animals. Living and conversing with these sensitive creatures has given him a profound appreciation of what they can teach us about ourselves. It has also made Fouts an outspoken opponent of biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees. A voyage of scientific discovery and interspecies communication, this is a stirring tale of friendship, courage, and compassion that will change forever the way we view our biological--and spritual--next of kin.

Fouts is a professor of Psychology.

448 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Roger Fouts

5 books28 followers
Roger S. Fouts is a retired American primate researcher. He was co-founder and co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) in Washington, and a professor of psychology at the Central Washington University. He is best known for his role in teaching Washoe the chimpanzee to communicate using a set of signs taken from American sign language.

Fouts is an animal rights advocate, citing the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act as a model for legal rights for the Great Apes (Hominidae), and campaigning with British primatologist Jane Goodall for improved conditions for chimpanzees. He has written on animal law and on the ethics of animal testing. He is also an adviser to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

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5 stars
1,238 (61%)
4 stars
546 (27%)
3 stars
167 (8%)
2 stars
33 (1%)
1 star
20 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 210 reviews
Profile Image for Jonathan Ashleigh.
Author 1 book128 followers
September 26, 2015
This is probably my favorite non-fiction book. If you are wondering why I only gave it four stars: that is because some would say there is more truth in fiction. As a linguist, I loved reading the way the chimps learn language. Before the project fell apart, chimps were already teaching there young without any outside assistance. I wish that there project would not have fallen apart for two reasons - first, the language development in the animals as future generations learned sign language would have gotten even cooler and second, because reading about tortured chimps is depressing.
Profile Image for Lisa.
12 reviews7 followers
January 21, 2008
When I was a little girl and signing as a means of communicating with chimps was covered in documentaries and in the pages of Life and Look and National Geographic as a sort of miracle, I thought that Jane Goodall and her colleagues lived unimaginably charmed lives.

At the start of this memoir, one has that same sense: what could be more magical and marvelous than learning how to communicate with animals? Fouts gives you a front and center peek into our closest animal cousins' perspectives and experiences of the world. It dazzles. You begin the memoir thinking that he is the luckiest guy in the world, having, through several twists of fate (described with appealing self-effacement), landed in a particular academic program, which, in turn, leads to life-long work with chimpanzees.

After an extended (and very enjoyably described) honeymoon period, he methodically breaks your heart. You learn, alongside the author, about the tortures endured by chimpanzees (both in the wild and within animal research facilities). Ultimately, though, the book is inspiring: the author acts with uncommon decency and is able to use his stature to ensure the safety of a number of chimpanzees in an enduring way, and encourages the reader to become active in efforts to remove chimpanzees from animal testing facilities.
Profile Image for Matt.
387 reviews14 followers
March 30, 2017
This is a powerful, life-changing book. It is a fluid mixture of entertaining narrative, heart-breaking details about the treatment of chimpanzees in laboratories, and engaging discourse about evolutionary theory, the development of language in chimps and humans, etc.

Through the entirety of the book & the microcosm of Washoe (the central chimp in the story) the message comes across that these animals are individuals, complete with personalities, moving emotions, and complex thoughts. They show a sense of humor, personal characteristics, and even compassion (such as when Washoe rescues another chimp from drowning). The narrations of the conversations had with the chimps are some of the most powerful aspects of the book: you have a sense of meeting a mind not much different than your own.

Fouts humbly highlights his journey from almost-accidental chimp language researcher, to despondent alcoholic, to activist working on behalf of these amazing animals. He highlights a central contradiction in medical research involving chimpanzees: they are studied because they are so similar to humans, yet shouldn't this similarity also cause us to see and respect their personhood? His tours of medical research facilities and the tiny, isolated cages in which chimps are essentially poisoned and tortured, will break your heart. Aptly he uses Shakespeare's quote to warn us against having "All pity choked by custom of fell deed" (p. 318).

This book will make you laugh, cry, and--above all--think!
Profile Image for Lauri.
224 reviews64 followers
October 9, 2007
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. At once, it is eye-opening, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. I cried and smiled and laughed and cried some more. You'll learn about everything from childhood autism, to the evolution of language, to the fight for the humane treatment of lab animals. This book is flawlessly constructed and flows effortlessly from start to finish, making it a book that I couldn't put down for two days straight. What started out an experiment to teach one chimp how to communicate using sign language, exploded into a phenomonon. The auther dedicated his whole life to humanely working with and protecting these chimps (often times, at the expense of his own personal gain). As a side note, the author and Central Washington State cooperated some years ago to create a permanent home for a handful of the signing chimps. Called the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute, it can be toured for a small donation.
Profile Image for Crystal.
103 reviews18 followers
May 14, 2024
i really cannot adequately explain why reading about monkeys affects me so strongly but this blew my FREAKIN socks off. i already sort of suspected it would, bc i first encountered ape language studies in a linguistics class and the class readings included some excerpts from this book which had me literally crying about chimpanzees at 3 am but ANYWAYS this is my first five star in forever, i HIGHLY and AGGRESSIVELY recommend reading it

this book is a riveting ROLLER COASTER. it's weaves seamlessly between narrative and discussion of theory, which might drag on for some people but the research of Descartes, Skinner, and Chomsky that Fouts talks about is literally what I learn about in class and its so interesting to see him position them meaningfully within a context that actually affects his life and research??? but yeah the book has fascinating theories in it but author's voice really shines through, the stories he tells are so filled with love and it makes the serious stuff even more heart-wrenching, i was like laughing out loud and crying while i was reading and stewing for DAYS thinking about monkeys... its hard to explain everybody please read this
Profile Image for Noella.
1,020 reviews64 followers
May 21, 2020
Het begint als Roger Fouts gaat werken bij het echtpaar Gardner, om te helpen de 2jarige chimpansee Washoe op te voeden en haar gebarentaal te leren. Fouts zal zich zijn hele leven voor Washoe blijven inzetten, en voor nog vele andere chimpansee, in het bijzonder voor dezen die ze na een tijdje bij elkaar kunnen zetten en die zo de 'familie van Washoe' vormen. Naast zijn studies, en later zijn werk als professor, bekommert Foust zich heel erg om het lot van chimpansees die in biomedische laboratoria gehouden worden. Hij doet er alles aan om de onwaardige omstandigheden van deze chimpansees een halt toe te roepen.
Indrukwekkend boek, dat me een heel andere kijk op de chimpansees gegeven heeft. Alhoewel in deze tijd vrijwel iedereen zou moeten beseffen dat we respect voor dieren moeten hebben, en ze goed behandelen (naar hun eigen behoeften en niet de onze) geven de gesprekken van Dr. Fouts met de chimpansees toch een grote meerwaarde aan mijn inzicht.
Profile Image for C. Janelle.
1,453 reviews37 followers
December 2, 2014
Holy moly. This book is awesome.

I can't remember how we found this book. I think some website (maybe Goodreads) recommended it because my nine-year-old was reading every single thing Jane Goodall wrote. My daughter read it first, and then as she was getting ready to return it to the library said, "Mom, I really think you should read this book. It's really good."

Once I started the book, it didn't take me long to agree with her.

I was probably already primed to find this book amazing. Whenever I go to a zoo or an animal sanctuary, I always have mixed feelings, especially when I see the captive primates, whether they're gorillas, chimpanzees, golden lion tamarins, capuchin monkeys, or marmosets. I was reminded of this when my family visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., last month and observed the gorillas. I recognize the realities of habitat loss and other aspects of modern life that make it impossible to return many of these beings to the wild, but they're just a little too close for comfort. I empathize with them a little too much to make watching them in captivity completely comfortable.

Reading Fouts' book emphasized all of these feelings I was already having. It was a very emotional read.

In this book, Fouts (with Stephen Tukel Mills) addresses issues of language acquisition, how learning happens (especially the use of rewards and punishments in learning), the close evolutionary relationship between chimpanzees and humans, the bias of the speaking/hearing population for spoken language, the morality of using non-human animals for biomedical testing, and the arbitrary boundaries we use to define "human" and "non-human." While imparting all of this information, the book reads like a memoir---a very compelling memoir.

Near the end, I started asking "where are they now?" about the chimpanzees in the book, which Fouts wrote in 1997. After an internet search, I learned that Dar, Moja, and Washoe have since died, and that Tatu and Loulis are now living at Fauna Foundation in Quebec, only a few hours' drive from where we live now. My daughter and I are now looking at the adopt-a-chimp and membership options at the foundation, and wondering if we can swing a visit.

I also began reviewing all of my household purchases. I lean towards products not tested on animals anyway, but sometimes---I admit---I am swayed by a good price. There are a surprising number of products in my house that wouldn't make the cut if I were really serious about avoiding products tested on animals.

So basically, this was a compelling and poignant read that has compelled me to make some changes in my everyday life. I'm now thinking of buying this for a half-dozen people for Christmas. Although since they're all primates, maybe they'd appreciate dress-up clothes and a bouquet of bananas more.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Once triggered, learning will not stop---unless it is hijacked by conditioning." (83)

"Creativity and learning are examples of innate behavior that can only be hindered, not helped, by rewards." (84)

Of a baby chimpanzee: "Until she grasps her groups' specific gestures and social cues---its dialect---she won't be able to learn important skills from her mother, form alliances with her peers, attract a mate, and raise her own children." (87)

"If our ape ancestors communicated gesturally, were early man's first languages signed? If so, how and when did these signed languages become spoken?" (90)

"In fact, during the first half of this [the twentieth] century, educators tried mightily to eradicate American Sign Language because they thought its gestures were too monkeylike"; speech was seen as the 'higher and finer part' of language." (96)

"Science that dissociates itself from the pain of others soon becomes monstrous." (372)

"Some scientists love to measure an animal's mind by comparing it to the human I.Q. In these tests chimpanzees come off like mentally disabled children or adults. But when we are dropped in the jungle, we suddenly test like mentally disabled chimpanzees, and the chimpanzees look like certified geniuses." (376)
Profile Image for John.
159 reviews
April 3, 2008
This book gets 5 stars because of all that it taught me about chimpanzees and scientific study. I never realized just how intelligent chimpanzees really are. I always thought that chimps using ASL were only using 1 or 2 word combinations, and only with nouns. It is amazing the complex sentences, thoughts, and emotions that these "animals" are sharing. I'll never look at a chimp the same again.

There is an ethical dilemma with using primates for scientific study, or for using any animals for that matter. The author has the extremist view of removing all forms of non-observational animal research. However, he never pushes this view onto the reader, and his reasons for his stance are clear and logical. I may not share the same view for all animals, but I also didn't spend 30 years of my life working with a chimpanzee family that I love.
Profile Image for Megan.
10 reviews
August 15, 2014
It was Washoe who taught me that "human" is only an adjective that describes "being", and that the essence of who I am is not my humanness but my beingness. There are human beings, chimpanzee beings, and cat beings.

How often do you read a book that changes your life? I will never be the same now that I have read this. At times charming, funny, eye-opening, and devastatingly heartbreaking, Roger Fouts describes his research on communicating with chimpanzees using sign language. Chimpanzees have feelings, social lives, and (he proves) the ability to communicate not only with each other, but with us. This book has broadened my horizons, made me laugh, and broke my heart.
99 reviews
September 7, 2014
This book was a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about people--not all of them human people. It tells the story of Roger, a chimpanzee language researcher, and his companion and colleague in his study, a chimpanzee named Washoe. Washoe is crossfostered with humans in her early life, where she learns to use American Sign Language. Along the way we meet other chimpanzees, each with their own personality and style. Sadly Roger helplessly watches many of them head into biomedical research laboratories, where they are considered property without any rights. I would recommend this book to anyone, although I caution that some of the things the chimps endure (Never with Roger, who is a respectful man now dedicated to animal rights) are so horrible I felt nauseated. This book was published in 1997, about two years after I declared my vegetarianism at eight. I feel heartbroken that this was happening while I doted on my stuffed animal companions and hamsters. This book was a wake-up call to me about makeup. I just started using makeup about a year ago, and for some reason it never occurred to me they'd test it on animals. I am giving up some favorite brands and using only cruelty free ones. This book is wonderful and thought provoking.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
10.7k reviews108 followers
September 12, 2018
Awe, humor, humility, and sadness are on display in the story of Washoe, the first signing chimpanzee. Fouts takes you into the world of Washoe and her family and traces his journey from a naïve young scientist who never thought about the ethics involved in the 1970s rush to raise baby chimps in human families, to a seasoned advocate for chimpanzees both in captivity and the wild.

Washoe herself is a delight. Imagine an especially clever kindergartener with the strength of multiple human beings. Her antics in the first section of the book will both amaze and humble readers. At the same time, there is a grimness behind it all. Washoe is a piece of property, a laboratory animal kidnapped from her natural habitat and subject to the whims of her owners. She is bought, sold, and transferred—sometimes to pleasant places, other times to conditions that would be considered inhumane for the world’s most violent criminals.

Fouts’s recollections of animal researcher Dr. William Lemmon, Washoe’s owner, are especially disquieting. The animal research community has long insisted their ranks care about animal welfare and don’t wish to cause unnecessary suffering, but the history of the behavior of some prominent researchers sheds light on why people who care about animals tend to distrust these assurances.

In addition to his insights and observations of chimpanzees, the author also makes frequent side-trips into evolution, communication, linguistics and legal personhood, which readers may or may not find interesting depending upon their point of view.

It is notable that this book was published over twenty years ago, so some things have changed for chimps, at least in the United States. When Fouts was writing, chimps were still being subjected to invasive research. Today, invasive research on great apes has mercifully ended (although such research on all other animals, including monkeys, continues), and many chimps have been retired to a sanctuary system (although many more still remain on laboratory property). We even have a quote from a National Institutes of Health spokesperson stating that chimps are “very social and sensitive animals” who deserve a peaceful retirement, conflicting mightily with the NIH’s successful battles against even the most conservative welfare improvements for apes in laboratories twenty and thirty years ago.
Profile Image for Antonia.
Author 7 books32 followers
June 27, 2014
TEN STARS! This is an amazing book, the engrossing story of primatologist Roger Fouts and the several chimps, including the famous Washoe, to whom he taught American Sign Language. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed reading it, but oh man, the audio is so, so good. Fouts narrates. As is often the case when a book is narrated by its author, it doesn't sound as though he's reading a book to you, but rather as though he's talking to you. Besides, there are sound effects. Fouts was a dedicated teacher and friend to several chimps. His story is tender, insightful, and passionate. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Fouts reveals the dark side of some of the animal research carried out in the latter decades of the last century, the inhumane treatment of the animals, and his path from researcher to animal rights advocate.

Do listen to this! It could be a life-changer.
Profile Image for Katherine.
140 reviews
January 12, 2008
I worked with these chimps one summer. They really are as amazing as the book portrays them.
Profile Image for Zbigniew Podedworny.
6 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2017
Fantastyczna opowieść o naszych kuzynach- szympansach. Wywołująca wiele emocji- od śmiechu przez złość do łez wzruszenia.
Bardzo polecam!
Profile Image for Kelsey.
44 reviews4 followers
April 6, 2008
A completely amazing, emotional book. A must read for anyone interested in human and animal welfare. I haven't been so emotionally affected by a book since "the only kayak."

p. 88 "I often found myself in heated exchanges with Washoe that reminded me of my own childhood. For ex., in early 1969, I had the thankless job of keeping her in the garage on laundry day while Susan Nichols used the washer in the Gardner's home to clean Washoe's clothes. Before, whenever Washoe had seen us gathering up her clothes, she'd know that the Gardner's backdoor would soon be open and she could sneak inside, where she would launch a chimp style raid: emptying the fridge, romping through the beds, and ransacking the closets. I always wound up frantically chasing her around the house. One time I turned on the vacuum cleaner to scare her out. This worked a little too well. in her panic to escape, she began defecating all across the Gardner's Persian rug.

The new laundry day strategy had me luring Washoe away from the trailer by suggesting that we GO GARAGE PLAY before Susan gathered up the dirty clothes. Washoe was usually enthusiastic about this b/c we had fixed up th garage as a rainy day playroom. We painted jungle scenes on the walls and put in a mattress for Washoe to bounce on, a parachute to swing on, and rugs to roll in. It was big enough for her to ride her tricycle around or to have wagon rides in. Once we were inside I would surreptitiously paddock the door.

This worked fine until Washoe looked out the window and saw Susan on her way to the Gardner's with the laundry. Then the garage became a prison and I was the big, bad brother. First she asked GO OUT. When I refused she signed, OPEN KEY, just in case I had forgotten how to get out. She even resorted to her most polite PLEASE OPEN. When I signed my refusal, she first began tickling me, then pinching and scratching, and finally tearing my shirt off. I was bigger than Washoe, but nowhere near as strong. I had to do something fast of these games would turn into major brother sister brawls.

It was during one of these brawls that I remembered a trick my older brother played on me when they wanted to keep me from going into a forbidden room. They would tell me that the "bogeyman" was in that room and he would "get me if I went inside." There was no question that Washoe's bogeyman was big black dogs so I pointed to the locked garage door and signed BIG BLACK DOG OUT THERE. EAT LITTLE CHIMPANZEE. Right away Washoe's eyes got big and her hair stood on end. She stood up on two legs and began swaggering like one angry ape. She hammered on the wall with the back of her hand. Then, suddenly, she charged across the garage, leaping into the air at the last moment and slammed into the locked door with both feet. Then she came back over to me.

This was working better than I had ever imagined. Washoe had ripped so many of my shirts on laundry day that I decided it was time to even the score a little. I asked her, YOU WANT GO OUT AND PLAY WITH BLACK DOG? She retreated to the farthest corner of the garage.

These exchanges went considerably beyond the kind of non-verbal communication one can have with a chimpanzee using facial expression and body language, or with a dog through barks and single word commands. Washoe and I were communicating. Symbolically she gave me symbolic information - telling me to open the door and suggesting that I unlock it using the key. I responded with symbolic information, false though it way, about the big black dog. If I hadn't been able to conjure up a non-existent dog, and if Washoe hadn't been able to comprehend it, I might not have been able to defuse our conflict. My soon might have been acquiring English faster and more comprehensively than Washoe was acquiring American Sign Language, but they were both using language to communicate abstractly and effectively. For me, this was the most powerful evidence supporting Darwin's theory that human language emerged from our ape-like ancestor."
Profile Image for Benjamin Rogers.
30 reviews3 followers
June 7, 2019
Have you ever felt or suspected that people are just as animal as any other species? This book will solidify that opinion and change the way you view all living creatures. This is a story of compassion, love, family, pain, suffering, torment, injustice, prejudice, science, psychology, sociology, evolutionary theory. It discusses the stiff moral boundaries that science has implemented/utilized to enslave emotional self aware beings and neglect our moral duties. Through his perspective we can change those views to cohabit the planet with those we have used as springboards for our gain only, leading to their suffering. Most importantly it's not told by a cold outsider unfamiliar with the realities of our kin. Roger Fouts shares true stories with a saintly unfiltered love that transcends his thesis from an argument to a beautiful tale/adventure that overrides bullshit and cuts straight to the capability of human love by sharing his insights that lead to a very clear understanding of the capacity of chimpanzees and just how alike we really are. This book is a 10/10 masterpiece. I cried, laughed, felt sorrow, peeked into beautiful windows, and felt so much for everyone involved in the tale that I felt that my own feelings were constantly on the line to be dismantled by the chaos of these poor (very adorable and loving)chimpanzees experiences. I recommend this to every single person. It's a very important lesson in compassion and a larger than life story that could only be told by someone involved.
Profile Image for Louisa.
154 reviews
May 1, 2016
Is the use of language unique to humankind? How and when did our hominid ancestors acquire language? Do chimpanzees - who are genetically closer to humans than they are to other apes - have language abilities? Is sign language useful where other communication channels fail, for example in children with autism? Next of Kin addresses these and other questions through the story of a young female chimpanzee who was taught American Sign Language in the 1960s. Roger Fouts was assigned to Project Washoe, an initiative of Dr. Allen Gardner to raise a chimpanzee as a human child and communicate only through sign language (everyone who worked with Washoe had to take a vow of silence) and his observations are recorded in this book.

Fouts argues that it is a mistake to equate language with speech, that speech and the communication through gestures require the same cognitive basis for language in the brain, and that primates have had language capabilities for millions of years.
His experiences with Washoe - carefully recorded and scientifically tested - proved Chomsky and Descartes wrong and Darwin right: the use of language is not unique to humankind. Chimpanzees really are our next of kin.
An excellent, excellent work.
616 reviews
September 13, 2017
Wow. Probably not a good idea to listen to heart wrenching books on the way to work. Tried to control ugly crying. This was narrated by Mr. Fouts himself, a true hero in my opinion and a brave man. I have never doubted that animals, especially apes and chimps, are kinder than humans in many regards. This confirmed my belief of the magnitude that humans can engage in disgusting, inhumane behavior on innocent lives. And from "scientists." Criminal behavior.
Profile Image for Jake.
62 reviews13 followers
May 26, 2013
I encourage anyone from any walk of life to read Next of Kin. This memoir is a wonderful mixture of heartfelt stories and important science. It was exciting to receive the account straight from the man himself. This is a work of his own and naturally must bias, but I don't doubt the sincerity, compassion, and dedication that made this man's career extraordinary.
As agonizing as it has been for countless voiceless animals, I admit that I have never hid from the benefits reaped by scientific research (Edward Taub for example). This accounting by Fouts has urged me to consider my tolerance in regards to research on living mammals. I also enjoyed the fascinating suggestions about gestural communication leading up to sophisticated speech as well as important thoughts and observations pertaining to great ape evolution. I hope that future scientists will not shrink from their compassionate impulses and take note from those like Fouts.
Profile Image for Michele.
328 reviews56 followers
December 13, 2012
Hmmmm.....just some of the good things I can think of about this book:

1. I learned how close we are psychologically, emotionally, verbally, and mentally to chimps
2. I learned to view animals in a much more connected way. I mean that I feel closer to all animals.
3. I saw again how susceptible humans are to holocaust/slavery type thinking.
4. This booked messed with my head. I will never be the same. I will forever after think of chimps as thinking/feeling/talking hominids. And I will be more sensitive to the feelings and well-being of all other animals.
5. I learned how speaking with the mouth/tongue evolved.
6. I learned how linked movement is with the ability to speak.
7. I learned about my own speech impediments.

I am really glad for Goodreads. Goodreads suggested this book and I had never noticed it before. And I really missed out up till now.
Profile Image for The Mad Mad Madeline.
675 reviews17 followers
September 16, 2015
Passionate and powerful, this account of a man's life and the chimpanzees who impacted and inspired him gave me a newfound appreciation and understanding of great apes.

I was encouraged to read the book by my Goodreads friend and colleague Liz, after I had told her of my fear of chimpanzees. I'm glad that I gave this book a shot.

While I'm still respectful (and yes, still slightly fearful) of chimpanzees, I have a better understanding of their depth, complexity, cognitive ability and prowess, and overall, an appreciation for them that I did not have before. I feel better educated about chimpanzees, and continue to understand the increasing need for expansion upon human thought/knowledge regarding the other organisms with which we share the planet.
Profile Image for Producervan.
365 reviews215 followers
June 18, 2019
Next of Kin, My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts with Stephen Tukel Mills. Introduction by Jane Goodall. Published by Harper. Copyright 2003 (1997). Paperback. 420 pages.

A very enjoyable, thought-provoking read about communicating with our nearest genetic cousins, the chimps. This book will provide a bounty of laughs and tears while adeptly defogging what it is to be a lab animal, both then and today. These intelligent chimpanzees communicate with humans via learned sign language—and they need our protection. I hope you’ll find them as amazing as I have. This book was a birthday gift. It deserves way more than 5 stars.
Profile Image for Lori.
352 reviews23 followers
April 22, 2015
I love this book. To look into the eyes of a chimpanzee is to see ourselves looking back at us. The differences between our species and our culture are bridged as we recognize our shared similarities via culture, language, took making, and emotions. We are them. They are us. We must embrace our family ties to them and stop using them as research objects. They feel no less than we feel. They love, laugh, communicate, and think as we do. They truly are our "next of kin" and it's time we started treating them as such. What an amazing book.
Profile Image for Tasha Price.
2 reviews3 followers
June 4, 2016
A great read. An emotional rollercoaster throughout - Roger Fouts had me feeling anger, despair, empathy and relief in the most passionate of ways. As a primatology student I found the whole book interesting and loved the chimpanzee characters and sign language studies but my favourite part was the last chapter - the way the author describes the history of anthropocentrism, starting with white male supremacy is very thought provoking and sums up the necessity for this book and others like it perfectly.
Profile Image for Janine.
5 reviews5 followers
March 13, 2007
I was supposed to read this book for one of my honors comm classes...i never finished but promised myself i'd return to it later. It's great. It's basically this researcher's autobiography as it relates to his work with chimpanzees. It is VERY interesting. It's a bit sciencey at a few points, but you don't have to be a science major or interested in the sciences to enjoy it. The best parts are his anecdotes about life working with and learning from chimps. A joy to read.
Profile Image for Susan.
9 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2008
This book is amazing. If you have a heart, you will cry often. But if you know what I want to do with my life, you will understand exactly why after reading this book.
One of the chimps in the book, Booee, is a chimp that I took care of in California (which is why I read the book in the first place). And yes, he will do anything for a rasin!
Profile Image for Alison Estep.
4 reviews
April 11, 2013
Fresh from visiting the Chimpanzee Language Institute (which I stumbled on) I felt compelled to read more about the chimps I had just met and -- yes -- signed to. I am a lazy non-fiction reader but this was an account that had me spell bound. It has deepened my understanding, made me laugh, and made me cry.
Profile Image for Diane Mchugh.
23 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2014
Excellent!! Covers 25 years in the life of Washoe and her chimpanzee family. Exposes the horrors of biomedical research on chimps but also the heroics of the author and his supporters in devoting their lives and finances to provide these social animals with their rightful lives in captivity. I laughed, was astounded, and cried.
Profile Image for LibraryCin.
2,408 reviews54 followers
July 4, 2022
4.5 stars

Roger Fouts was a psychology student in the late 1960s when he got a job helping with a chimpanzee, Washoe, to study whether or not chimps could learn human language by way of ASL (American Sign Language). Despite that he really wanted/planned to work with kids, this began decades of research with, then activism for, chimpanzees. He and his family (wife and eventually three kids) moved where Washoe was either sent or where was best for her. Roger was unable to help many other chimpanzees he met along with way (though he was able to help a few), but (often with Jane Goodall’s help), he fought to make living conditions for chimpanzees used in research in the U.S. better.

He was still fighting for changes in 1997 when the book was published, but on checking today, things have gotten better – not for all chimps, but for many (most?). There were a few sections in the book where he was talking about research and studies that got just a bit dry, but for the most part, I loved reading about the chimps and the studies and was (to no surprise) horrified at what he saw in the medical research labs. Whether in my psychology or anthropology classes 30ish years ago, I had heard of both Fouts and Washoe, as well as many of the other scientists and studies Fouts mentions in this book. I went through a bunch of emotions reading this book – happiness, sadness, anger... I love that he ended up being an activist, and wanted(s) to see change. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book!
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