So, let's turn early American literary figures into NBA superstars. Or early American literary figures into musical instruments.
Those are my instructions for my students. Let's face it, The General History of Virginia by John Smith and Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford are just plain HARD to read and understand. So, we must find ways to make it interesting.
My recommendation? Blend what we don't know with what we DO know very well.
Turn John Smith into Carmelo Anthony. By using third person and talking about his own heroics in the face adversity, John Smith transforms into the New York Knicks' superstar: he's selfish. I mean, 'Melo doesn't have the assist stats or the rebound stats that LeBron has. AND--his shooting percentage proves that there isn't a shot he doesn't like.
Not a hoops fan? Find the musical instruments. The early native myths are the winds, connecting the natural beauty and Olaudah Equiano is the percussion segment, pounding at the heart of the human soul.
This is the challenge to my students and to me. Let's work hard to make this difficult literature interesting by connecting it to the things we already love.
Then--and only then--can we really love the literature.