How do power and beauty join forces to determine who is considered ugly? What role does that ugliness play in fomenting hatred? "Ugliness" is a artistic non-fiction using a broad cultural lens to question norms of appearance—ostensibly autobiographical and personal, but in fact historical and collective. Moshtari Hilal writes in her debut book about beauty salons in Kabul as a backdrop to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Kim Kardashian, and a utopian place in the shadow of her nose. With a profound mix of essay, poetry, her own drawings, and cultural and social history of the body, Hilal explores notions of hate and imitation, taking the reader into the most intimate of realms to put self-image to the test. Why are we afraid of ugliness?


awarded the Hamburg Literature Prize 2023 for non-fiction. 






“What make Ugliness special is the unconventional form of the text: a mixture of essayistic passages, autobiographical writing, poems, personal photos and collages, in which the author’s nose often can be seen . . . The personal mixes with the researched, the stylized with the academic. Ugliness should therefore also be understood as a work of art, not just as a non-fiction book. As this hybrid, Ugliness is captivating.”

— Süddeutsche Zeitung 


“People still endure massive pain just to avoid being considered ugly. There is a reason for this, concludes Moshtari Hilal: beauty needs ugliness. Her book is a revelation, an eye-opener, a slap in the face.”

— Westdeutscher Rundfunk













German Original "Hässlichkeit"

published September 2023 by Hanser 


English Translation "Ugliness"

available February 2025

by New Vessel Press


Italian Translation

coming soon


Turkish Translation

coming soon