I almost didn’t read Brooklyn Zoo by Darcy Lockman . It was on the Vine list but the reviews were so negative I stayed away. Then I saw it on the library shelf and figured, “Why not?”
As it turns out, I recommend reading this book as a case study of a misfit. It’s a situation that makes sense when viewed as a career challenge rather than a personal flaw or problem. The title is unfortunate but authors rarely have control over the publisher’s title decision.
As other reviewers pointed out, the book doesn’t have a lot of action. In a memoir we generally like to see a hero’s journey. So I’d have liked to see how Darcy changed and grew as a result of this internship. She focuses a lot on specific patients, which isn’t especially interesting as she just sees them for a short time. She also focuses on her struggles with supervisors, which come across as self-absorbed. Somehow we expect a psychologist to take these things in stride.
I’d agree with the reviewers who pointed out that Darcy was ill-prepared for this internship. Her fiance got into a program that dovetailed nicely with his training. He may have had more going for him, such as his experience as a social worker in the Navy. But surely Darcy could have found a program that would be more appropriate to her goals.
If not, then I agree with the reviewer who pointed out that an internship is about getting your ticket punched on the way to becoming a professional. You learn what you can and then move on, trying not to annoy the supervisors too much.
That said, this memoir makes an excellent case study of what happens when you make a choice that lands you in a place you don’t belong. It can happen to anyone. I once accepted a visiting professor position (in my earlier career as an academic), after talking to a lot of people and getting lots of advice from people who were in a position to know the situation. Everyone assured me it would be good for my career.
I was a complete fish out of water. I just didn’t belong. My research orientation and my interests were different. I was female; there was a strong male bias. I had expected a very different type of role. And (as with Darcy) the person who hired me was no longer in charge when I arrived, and there was no way I could have anticipated this change.
The experience was frustrating (to put it mildly). I suspect Darcy came from a similar position. In her case, even if she knew intellectually that she would not fit, she might have felt she had no choice: she needed the internship and she may have had no options.
Darcy’s values would be related to her professional psychoanalytic orientation, as would her style. She would have had trouble communicating. And once branded as a misfit – even if nobody talks about it or even understands what’s going on – conflicts and communication misfires will happen. Misfits inevitably manage to say and do the wrong thing. My non-clinical studies of social psychology would suggest that what’s happening is deviance creation.
So how do you recognize when you’re a fish out of water and what can you do? One problem is that as a misfit, you’re often isolated from your support system; Darcy wasn’t able to keep seeing her own therapist, who in any case seemed to echo her views instead of helping her sort out her situation. Getting an objective view from someone who understands career trajectories would have saved Darcy a lot of grief; she’d have written a better book or perhaps no book at all.