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Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees Paperback – September 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Living Planet Book
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380728222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380728220
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For three decades, primatologist Roger Fouts has been involved in language studies of the chimpanzee, the animal most closely related to human beings. Among his subjects was the renowned Washoe, who was "endowed with a powerful need to learn and communicate," and who developed an extraordinary vocabulary in American sign language. Another chimpanzee, Fouts writes, "never made a grammatical error," which turned a whole school of linguistic theory upside down. While reporting these successes, Fouts also notes that chimpanzees are regularly abused in laboratory settings and that in the wild their number has fallen from 5,000,000 to fewer than 175,000 in the last century.

From Library Journal

Having spent most of his career teaching sign language to chimps, Fouts divulges our hairy cousins' opinions on humans.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Probably the most informative and entertaining book I've ever read.
M. Lee
I admire everything that Fouts, his family, and his colleagues have done to protect chimpanzees, who are our next of kin on the great evolutionary scale.
Melissa Niksic
It was one of the most thoughtful, eye-opening, and educated books that I have ever read.
Paul MacKenzie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Roger Fouts has written an extraordinary book that combines insight with scientific fact as he relates his experiences with a special chimpanzee who changed the direction of his life. As a graduate student in experimental psychology at the University of Nevada, Fouts is given an assistantship to "teach a chimpanzee to talk" using modified American Sign Language, and thus begins his introduction to impishly clever Washoe. Washoe is in almost every sense a "person", with specific character traits, likes and dislikes, habits and methods. When she is in danger of being dumped into a medical facility at the end of the study, Fouts fights to protect her against the woefully inadequate laws and accepted scientific procedures. His battle not only for Washoe but for all captive chimpanzees becomes the focus of his career. Because Washoe and her companions have the ability to express themselves, this is at times a heartbreaking tale as Fouts and the reader discover how closely related chimps and humans truly are. Through his passionate storytelling and his breadth of knowledge, Fouts gives readers an intimate glimpse into these fascinating non-human lives.
I cannot express adequately how moving and instructive this account is. It will affect you on a deeply emotional level - I can't imagine how anyone can emerge from this story unchanged. I highly recommend this book for all readers, from teenagers to adults, from casual to serious readers.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Niksic VINE VOICE on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees" is one of the most amazing, heartbreaking, and inspirational books I've ever read. The book is written by Roger Fouts, a primatologist who devoted his life to studying the language patterns of chimpanzees. While in graduate school, Roger was introduced to Washoe, a precocious young chimp who became fluent in American Sign Language. Eventually "Project Washoe" expanded to include many chimpanzees, all who learned to communicate with humans using ASL and demonstrated unique personalities, complex emotions, and astounding intelligence.

I've always been a big animal lover, but reading this book taught me so many things that I never knew before. Anyone who questions an animal's ability to think or feel will get a sharp reality check after reading this book. Chimpanzees are people, too, just as much as human beings are. Unfortunately, the majority if humans in this world don't agree with that logic, and thousands of animals, including chimpanzees, are routinely kidnapped from their natural habitats and bred in captivity for the sole purpose of participating in biomedical research. In many cases, medical laboratories house animals in appalling conditions and literally torture them to death. "Next of Kin" details the horrors that go on behind closed doors at biomedical laboratories, and chronicles the steps Fouts and other animal activists have taken to protect chimpanzees from being treated inhumanely.

I absolutely loved this book. Reading it made me feel close to Washoe and her chimpanzee friends, even though I never met any of them before. (Sadly, Washoe passed away last fall at the age of 42, but I hope to visit members of her family at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute in Washington someday.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Duane Williams on April 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I could hardly put it down. It is the autobiographical story of a graduate student who wanted to be a clinical psychologist working with children, but who didn't have either the grades or the money to get into a first-tier Ph.D. program. His advisor suggested that he apply to the University of Nevada, where he was admitted to the department of experimental psychology, a far cry from clinical. For money, they offered him a half-time assistantship, working for Allen and Beatrix Gardner, researchers who were trying to teach a chimpanzee to talk. His interview with Allen Gardner did not go well and he was sure he wasn't going to get the job, but after the interview ended he was asked if he would like to see the chimp.
"As we approached the fenced-in nursery school, I saw two adults playing with a child in the shade of a tree. At least I thought it was a child. When the child saw us coming she leapt up and began hooting. Then she began sprinting in our direction--on all fours. We were only a few yards from the four-foot-high fence now. Washoe continued to speed toward us and, without breaking stride, vaulted over the fence and sprang from the top rail. What happened next amazes me to this day. Washoe did not jump onto Allen Gardner as I had expected. She leapt into my arms."
He got the job. He didn't know anything about chimpanzees, especially about changing diapers on an infant chimp, and he didn't know anything about American Sign Language, but he learned fast. For the next several years he was part of a project to teach ASL to Washoe and to demonstrate that a nonhuman animal could learn a natural, human language. They didn't treat Washoe the way animals are usually treated by researchers.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zinta Aistars on June 4, 2002
Format: School & Library Binding
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 incredible and heart wrenching insight into a world we too often choose to ignore - the world side by side to our own "civilized" one, the world of the animal kingdom. It is, perhaps, our view of it as a separate world from our own that first gets us into trouble. The human being is an arrogant being. We like to think that we are the superior beast - the thinking, feeling, building, progressive being that rules the earth - but so often the human being is not so superior at all, but only... a beast. Fouts takes that arrogance down several notches. He reveals the remarkable intelligence of the chimpanzee mind. He reveals the astounding emotional depth of the chimpanzee heart. He unveils the tragic suffering of the chimpanzee life when we forget these emotional and intellectual capacities. In a time when scientific strides in all fields - space exploration, medical, or other - can easily be made without the torment of our animal brethren, this book bears witness to our human cruelty and argues effectively for an abandonment of such treatment forever. We are not, after all, a superior creature on this planet. We are only one among many, sharing a global environment to which all of our varied species have a right to live in, enjoying our freedom to live our lives without the threat of enslavement by others - human or animal.
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