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.