Currant Jam, Customland, and the “Vagina Dream Cave”

By A. J. BrownJanuary 13, 2024

Currant Jam, Customland, and the “Vagina Dream Cave”
CURRANT JAM LAUNCH PARTY, Frogtown Creative, Los Angeles, January 6, 2024.

On a crisp January evening, the sleepy backstreet that houses Frogtown Creative was abuzz. New and familiar faces in the L.A. literary world filtered through the little compound for Currant Jam’s fourth issue launch party. Copies of the issue crowded a little table beside custom T-shirts. Currant Jam, despite being a relatively new fixture in the alt-lit world, is a fixture nevertheless. Founded and edited by Emily Ann Zisko, Brooke Hallie Metayer, Marie Claire Marchant, and Olivia Aquilina, Currant Jam hosts fiction and nonfiction, art, and profiles of local artists and brands, as well as whole zines. 

One of these featured brands, the L.A.-based Customland, outfitted the editors in a fishnet shirt, a baseball print dress, hand-painted jackets, and stick-on face gems in an array of colors and patterns. Writers, editors, and models flitted about, neon and bejeweled amid a sea of muted colors, before retreating backstage in preparation for the fashion show that would follow the reading. A buzzing hush; sequined faces (my own among them) glittered in the bright light of Frogtown Creative’s main room. Two of the editors, Emily and Marie, took the stage to raucous applause.

“We don’t feel that Currant Jam belongs to us alone,” Emily said, smiling at the crowd. 

Marie added, “We encourage you to engage with the art. Talk to one of the readers if you like their work, meet the designers.”

Community is the cornerstone of Currant Jam. Their December reading, featuring alt-literati Sammy Loren, S. M. Van de Kamp, and Zoey Greenwald, was well attended enough to crowd Alma’s, despite being held on a weeknight in the pouring rain. Tonight, the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk, a sea of foggy breath crowding heat lamps as the readings commenced. I pressed my gem-encrusted lips together to keep from smiling too broadly (lest the gems fall off), the glue that fixed the word “CustomLand” across my cheeks in rhinestones complaining at the movement. Jo Stone read from a science fiction piece, “Census 2069,” which features a protagonist who describes an iPhone as “the closest thing he has to a pet, and to a father.” 

Next up was Brittany Menjivar of Car Crash Collective, who read an excerpt of one of my personal favorites, a short piece about a girl born on 9/11. The final reader of the night was alt-lit icon Jack Skelley, who lifted his phone to the crowd to request, “Everyone say Currant Jam,” before debuting a piece from his upcoming work, Myth Lab (“not to be confused with meth lab”). He sourced a French pronunciation from another reader before possibly coining the phrase “vagina dream cave.” After the reading was a film screening, fashion show (the beginning and likely end of my modeling career), and musical performances. The editors accepted hugs while wearing broad grins, gems fell off faces (I’m still picking mine out of my hair), and models returned to their civilian attire. The Currant Jam community embraced one another, physically and metaphorically, as the evening swelled into a party, and then faded into the night.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Aiden “A.J.” Brown is a Chicago-born, LA-based writer, multimedia artist, and Aquarius rising. Their work has appeared in Hobart Pulp, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Dream Boy Book Club, among others. Their Bachelor-inspired murder mystery received the 2023 T Paulo Urcanse Prize For Literary Excellence from High Horse magazine. Their debut anthology, The Apple House, is slated to rerelease in 2025 with Bullshit Lit.


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