Barbara Hendricks is a world-renowned opera singer, probably better known in Europe, where she lives and performs. She is a true woman of the world — born in the United States, she lives and raised a family in Switzerland, is a Swedish citizen and travels from continent to continent as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

What many people probably don’t know about her is that Hendricks is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her degree wasn’t in music but in chemistry and mathematics.

The years she spent in Nebraska are just a part of the story to be found in “Lifting My Voice: A Memoir” (Chicago Review Press, $32.95). She grew up in Arkansas as the daughter of a minister and a teacher in the 1950s and ’60s, a time when black citizens were struggling to claim their civil rights. She came of age in the years of the Vietnam War.

But she had always been a singer and turned to that as a career path as she left UNL and entered the Juilliard School of Music. She found acceptance and fame, especially in Europe.

Since establishing herself as an opera singer, she has performed in cities around the world. But she’s no diva, because she also for many years she has lifted her voice in the cause of human rights. A diva’s memoir probably wouldn’t have a foreword by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Not only are Hendricks’ life and stories about the many famous people she has known interesting, but her view of world events over the past 50 years is compelling.

Other books that have local significance:

  • “Blood Games” by Chloe Neill (Penguin/New American Library, $15).

The Omaha author continues her Chicagoland Vampire Series — this is the 10th book — by giving Merit a deadly assignment: finding a murderer who preys on humans. Meanwhile, her bond with Ethan grows stronger. Neill’s stories are always exciting and entertaining. This one will be available Tuesday.

  • “The Good Life: A Nebraska Love Story” by Genevieve Dewey (Amazon Digital Services, $16).

Two previously published short stories and a full-length novel that takes off where the stories left off are included in this book by the Nebraska writer. The stories and novel focus on the romance between Dominic and Kate and the assorted friends and family who are part of their lives.

  • “Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War” by Lowell J. Soike (University of Nebraska Press, $30).

A look at the forces at play in the years leading up to the Civil War, especially Iowans and the idea of slavery. Many histories of that period don’t spend much time on what was happening in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, so this is an intriguing look at the people and events in those states.


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