Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees
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Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees

4.46 of 5 stars 4.46  ·  rating details  ·  983 ratings  ·  121 reviews
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 Fouts'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 appr...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Turtleback Books (first published 1997)
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Lisa
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 e...more
Lauri
Oct 09, 2007 Lauri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: animals, own_it, favorites
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...more
Matt
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 sh...more
John
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...more
Antonia
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 fr...more
Kelsey
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 he...more
Jake
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 rese...more
Mary Robinson
This book was in the bibliography of Sara Gruen’s Ape House and, because I loved the part of her book dealing with the animals, I wanted to know more about apes learning how to communicate with humans. I enjoyed this look of the first chimpanzee to be taught American Sign Language by Roger Fouts, co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. It’s fascinating to see how close these chimps are to us, and Fouts has some very valid and moving points about the sad way that humans t...more
Janine
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.
Colby Qualls
This book has certainly altered my perception of the superiority of the human species. It is such a fascinating tale of such a certainly human-like character. The problem is that even still today we are not willing to accept certain facts about our own origins. Roger Fouts does not hold punches with anyone or any group. He is willing to deal out the blame, even on himself. I only hope that such ideas displayed in this book gain more momentum in the upcoming years.
Susan
Aug 11, 2008 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!!
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!
Alison Estep
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.
Katherine
I worked with these chimps one summer. They really are as amazing as the book portrays them.
Louisa
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 Washo...more
Zinta
In doing research for a journalism assignment, I was recommended Fouts' "Next of Kin." I read the book as I prepared for a trip to the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care, a sanctuary of hope in southern Florida for chimpanzees rescued from labs and similar monstrosities, funded by Jane Goodall and other good people. It was a superb introduction to what I was about to witness, and I ended up using a lengthy quote from the book as an epigram to my article about the sanctuary.

Fouts has given an in...more
Timothy McNeil
Fouts undercuts the main thrust of his argument (that the great apes, and eventually all animals, deserve the same level of compassion and consideration as human beings when it comes to scientific study and medical experimentation) by relying too heavily on the emotional connection forged between himself and the chimpanzees for which (he would say 'whom') he cared. Still, it is a mostly well written book -- only occasionally tedious in its repetitiveness or indulgence of spending two pages makin...more
Michele
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 sensi...more
Sabrina
I read this book in college because a professor at my school wrote this book. My roommate at the time also worked with the chimps so I heard lots of stories about them. I haven't been back to see them in years, but they are such wonderful and smart animals. This book tells such a wonderful story of their lives and the beginning of their story.
Chrissy
This is an honest, difficult, wonderful book. Psychologist Roger Fouts (currently at Eastern Washington University) recounts his life experiences (beginning as a graduate student) with Washoe, a chimpanzee who learned sign language as a youngster (and with their-Fouts' and Washoe's- experiences with other chimps and humans). Although the book is not without examples of funny, charming or surprising chimpanzee behavior (such as one girl chimp's interest in Playboy magazine), the real heart of the...more
Beverly
Truly engrossing and amazing story of Roger Fouts's work on language aquisition that began when he taught a young chimpanzee, Washoe, to use ASL. He traces the development of spoken language in humans to the gestural language of chimpanzees in the wild and demonstrates the close relation betwen ourselves and others in the ape family. He also gives a impassioned plea for an end to animal research under conditions of fear, pain, and severe deprivation. Some of this was hard to read. My guess is th...more
Alison Whiteman
I read this years ago and still remember the book vividly. If you love animals, this book will make you want to stop eating them. The story of Roger Fouts and his ASL program with chimpanzees brought even Dan Rather to tears.
Greg Metcalf
This book tried to reach a wide audience and I'd say was successful. I was looking for information specifically about chimpanzees using sign language and there were some technical portions that covered that, but these were stories about chimpanzees, mostly focusing on a fortunate group of them who were put in optimal social settings to facilitate communication, first with humans and then strictly with each other. The author makes it easy to read between the lines, though, and know that most chim...more
Eden
This is the story of a female chimp, Washoe, who learned to communicate using ASL. It tells the ups and downs of Washoe's life and the other chimps who were part of a program teaching chimpanzees human communication. I enjoyed reading about the research, the cruelties, the achievements and the joys. It was very controversial as to whether these chimps actually learned and would communicate using ASL, but after reading the book I believe it was a success. I was amazed to read that the efforts of...more
Stefanie
I read this years ago and it's still one of the most interesting and powerful books I have ever read. The current episode of FRESH AIR about Project Nim has me remembering just how much this book meant to me when I was just starting out as an adult, when I was exploring my own feelings about animals in my life. This was at the time I was working at a zoo, when I brought Cleo home, and when I was exploring vegetarianism. The relationship between the Fouts family and Washoe and her family is reall...more
Justin Ludwig
This is one of those books that I couldn't put down and wish there was more to read when it ended. So many interesting things in this book -- science, research, history, and a lot of great stories that takes you through the vicissitudes of all their lives; through all the ups and downs you experience an emotional connection with all the chimpanzees. Its really moving!
I have studied the similarities between humans and chimps before (Im currently a psych grad student) but this book brought it to...more
Lynn
Next of Kin is equally amazing and heartbreaking. Although I knew of the close genetic connection that chimps have to humans and that some chimps learned to sign, I had no idea of the extent of their vocabulary or their cognitive skills in learning language. Knowing that now makes the thought of them being used for medical research even more devastating. Roger Fout's dedication to the chimpanzees is astounding and should be commended. If this subject interests you, I highly recommend The Chimps...more
Beth
I thought this was a great book not only for someone who is interested in animal science, or other related sciences but even just as a novel. I actually got to work with these Chimpanzees (Tatu Loulis and the late Dar) and was amazed watching them communicate with me and their carers. To be able to glimpse into the mind of a nonchalant ape and see how they think was an experience I'll never forget! I hope they find happiness in their new home at Fauna Foundation Quebec Canada.
antonia vitale
this book changed my life. it was written by roger fouts who my good friend julia worked with at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) on the campus of Central Washington University. it is the story of several generations of chimpanzees who Roger and his wife work with. it really is an amazing insight into the minds of primates. if this doesnt make you respect the life of an animal i dont know what will.
Nancy Peacock
Very moving. I fell in love with the chimps, who through no fault of their own, ended up in captivity and not living in the wild. This is the story of how Roger Fouts fought for these chimps in order to get them away from a sadistic doctor, and into the safest environment he could provide for them. It was not an easy journey. I have been sending money to help Roger support them ever since reading this book.
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