I came up with the story for Fred and Ginger during graduate school when I met my roommate from South America. She was from a country whose cultural background was completely different from Taiwan’s: Colombia. Her love of dance and her uninhibited personality were a huge culture shock for me at the time. We clearly had different ways of life and personal preferences, but we also had a lot of incidents involving cultural differences while we shared a room together but of course a certain amount of disagreement is inevitable. Colombia is the birthplace of salsa and my roommate had always loved dancing since she was small, she introduced me to so many Latin dances and it was a totally new life experience for someone like me who had no background in dance. This was why I chose to use dance as a subject to bring out the friendship between the two characters.
The story was initially conceived in English, so when I was naming the characters I researched famous dancers from history and came across two celebrities who had been renowned dance partners during the 1930s and 40s: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. By chance, the English word for an orange cat is “ginger”, so I decided there and then to call the two characters “Fred” and “Ginger”. However, the hardest part was choosing a title for the book, it was a huge challenge for me as a someone who is not a native English speaker. I considered so many dance-related titles but none of them were quite right, until I gave a talk at the end of term and mentioned the concept behind naming “Fred” and “Ginger”. Various teachers and classmates who had grown up in the West immediately picked up on the names and the dance connection, then they went on to suggest that there couldn’t be a more fitting title for the book than Fred and Ginger. I decided on that for the title, and when it came to translating it into Chinese I made the names more local and decided that instead of directly translating the English names, I would use the homophones “fu” (meaning “luck”) for Fred and “jin” (meaning “gold”) for Ginger.
Also, the dance studio that appears in the story is called “Dansa” which combines the English word “dance” with “casa”, the Spanish word for home. The general idea is: as long as you like to dance, this is your home!
Lastly, what I really want to say is that in a lot of cases the end result isn’t the most important thing. What matters most is how we feel during the process and I hope that during these difficult times we can all cherish one another because there’s really nothing more important than each other’s company.
- Chang Ting-Yu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=360
- Fred and Ginger: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=373