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

4.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,425 Ratings  ·  153 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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Jonathan Ashleigh
Sep 25, 2015 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 21, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2007 Lauri rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 08, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animal-behavior
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
Dec 02, 2014 Charity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2014 Antonia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 07, 2014 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 labora ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Katherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I worked with these chimps one summer. They really are as amazing as the book portrays them.
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
Apr 06, 2008 Kelsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2013 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2015 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, an
Lori Fox
Apr 21, 2015 Lori Fox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 tr ...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
Tasha Price
Jun 04, 2016 Tasha Price rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 per ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever stood by the chimpanzee pen at your favorite zoo trying to communicate with those on the other side of the glass, you'll love the tales by Roger Fouts of care-taking young chimp Washoe, teaching her American Sign Language, and drawing the linguistic, psychological, and ethical implications drawn from a lifetime of providing for her and the family of other chimps that came to surround her. There is lots of love and humor spread throughout the book watching the chimps and humans lea ...more
Mar 12, 2007 Janine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Diane Mchugh
Oct 04, 2014 Diane Mchugh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animal-books
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.
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.
Aug 11, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 11, 2013 Alison Estep rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marc Chéhab
Sep 22, 2014 Marc Chéhab rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this roughly 400 page book, Fouts tells us the story of his work with chimpanzees, embedding it richly in philosophy, reflection and science. You could imagine it a little bit like Dawkins' "Selfish Gene", but instead of talking mainly about biology, it talks about different subjects in psychology. While Fouts leading narrative is his personal history with Washoe, he chips in many reflections on philosophical and scientific discussions. One cannot fight off the impression that Fouts is less l ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Lo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only critique I have of NEXT OF KIN that I want to bring up is that Fouts' argument for the legal (and generally understood) personhood of chimpanzees depends on an assumption that non-white, non-male humans have indeed achieved full personhood status in the 21st century. On multiple occasions, he references that once upon a time, people of color and women were not considered people, but that such views are now considered unthinkable--hence, he imagines a future where to relegate chimpanzees ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Zinta rated it it was amazing
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
Samrat Sen
Nov 13, 2014 Samrat Sen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok let me start by saying iam NOT a book worm. I read Non-fiction only that also very selectively.

I always wanted to know more about the great apes . Thankfully i came across a recommendation in Goodreads for the 'Next of Kin' by Dr. Fouts.

Dr. Roger Fouts has written a phenomenal book! This book is quite the life changer and it will satisfy you if you are want to know more or increase your knowledge on this particular subject. This 400+ book is a long slow read. You cant rush through it like a r
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 Harrod
Apr 25, 2016 Michele Harrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There really just aren't words for me to describe how this book made me feel. The range of emotions are too enormous. Simply, this should be a text book in every school. And perhaps if it were, we could all truly understand the connection we have with animals, how like us they are, and how willing they are to share their lives with us. And we would be a better species for it. My heart is enlarged and yet sore from this story. We have done so much harm. I find it hard to reconcile my own DNA with ...more
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
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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 advocat
More about Roger Fouts...

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