Ougat by Shana Fife – Review

Genre: Memoir
Published: June 2021
Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers
Pages: 227
My Rating: /5

“The paradox of being a young coloured girl is that you’re shamed for being wet behind the ears, then punished for being too mature. Ougat mos. Damned if you do, a laaitie if you don’t.”

Shana Fife, Ougat

Firstly I have to say that I love reading books and memoirs written by South African authors. And when I saw Ougat for the first time, I knew I had to get my hands on it immediately.

It is written by local Capetonian, Shana Fife. Being from Cape Town myself, this book was extremely easy to relate to, but not always in a good way. You have to face some harsh realities about the way coloured females were and are still treated to this day. Its difficult to express the emotions I felt when Shana mentioned Southfield and St. Annes Primary (The suburb in which I grew up and the primary school I attended when I was in grades 6 and 7 after also being removed from another primary school in a less well off area) I actually ran to the lounge to show my husband at one point it felt as if she was describing my childhood, but this is about Shanas story.

This one of the most honest, detailed and heart-wrenching books I have ever read. Im pretty sure it would be really easy to binge-read this in a sitting, but because of the heavy content I had to take some breaks in between. Shana doesnt sugarcoat her experiences and her writing is very easy to read. The topics discussed are those of sexism, physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as mental health issues.

Shana gives us insight to what it is truly like to grow up as a colored female and even though some of these events have taken place many years ago, not much has changed to this day. She tells us how gender-based violence within these households is often accepted and not spoken about, because ‘what happens in other people’s homes is none of our business.’ Being told you need to behave a certain way by your family because you are a girl, the way boys and girls/men and women are treated differently to one another and are still expected to fulfill specific gender roles and how difficult it is to try and break that cycle.

“Let me walk you through Coloured parenting and the facade of adult authority in the late 90s to 2000s. The path of least resistance is the correct path. Children are meant to be seen not heard.”

“To delve deeper, a child has no rights.”

“If an adult gave you an instruction, you would oblige”

It doesnt matter who you are or where you are from, I would recommend this to everyone even if you are on the other side of the world (there is a glossary at the end that explain certain terminology) but if you are a female and a coloured female from Cape Town, then this is a book you have to read. 

(Those not from South Africa, coloured is a term used to describe a specific population in SA. Who have their own traditions, are of mixed racial ancestry and religions, and can be extremely different depending on which area and suburb you grew up in the way Shana describes. All grouped into this one category) 

Disclaimer: I was sent this free copy for review by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This does not influence my review or rating in any way. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

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