The meaning of ""women's rights"" varies with nationality and culture. For Souad, who grew up in the late 1950s in a tiny, remote village in the ""Palestinian Territory,"" it's an issue of life and death. When, as an unmarried girl, she became pregnant, she was sentenced to death by her immediate family, doused with gasoline and set on fire by her brother-in-law, and taken to a hospital to be neglected until she died. There, she was discovered by a humanitarian worker who managed to save her life by arranging her emigration, with her infant son, to Switzerland. As horrifying as this ""honor crime"" is, it's a logical, almost natural outgrowth of what Souad says is the standard treatment of girls and women in her closed world. Using starkly plain language, she vividly depicts a childhood of virtual slavery, in which she was illiterate, ignorant of anything beyond the confines of the village, working ""harder than a beast of burden"" and beaten daily. As Souad slowly healed and made a new life for herself in Europe, horrific images arose out of her jumbled memory: her mother smothering unwanted female babies at birth; her brother strangling her younger sister with a telephone cord for committing an unknown sin. Not so much a literary work as an expos of the brutal treatment of women still condoned in several parts of the world, this memoir, although painful to read, will be of urgent interest to anyone concerned with international human rights. Agent, Anna Jarota. (May 11) Forecast: This book was published in France last year and hit bestseller lists there. Ads in People and Time will alert American readers to its U.S. publication.