Joanna Gaines Shares Story of Being Teased to Help Her Kids Find Wholeness Quicker Than She Did

In her new memoir, 'The Stories We Tell,' the 'Fixer Upper' star and entrepreneur opens up about finding clarity, letting go of anxiety, and embracing her Korean heritage.

Joanna Gaines

Harper Select / Billy Jack Brawner

As a young girl, Joanna Gaines grew up in Rose Hill, Kansas, and was raised by an American dad and a Korean mother. Her parents met while her dad was stationed in South Korea with the U.S. military. In her new book, The Stories We Tell, she candidly writes about quickly learning how to conform to the cultural norms in her small town. Mixed-race families were rare to come by, and the 44-year-old recalls being teased for what she ate for lunch, her slanted eyes, and her mother’s accent. “Eventually, the lunchroom teasing stopped. But by then I’d spent nearly 12 years quieting half of who I was in a world I thought wouldn’t accept it, that somewhat subconsciously I’d forgotten it was ever a part of me to begin with,” she writes. 

The mother of five explains that she never fully processed her childhood. In recent years, she took to journaling as a form of self-care and found pause and reflection in her busy life. “[Writing] was a really personal process for me that led me to a healthier place,” she reveals at an intimate roundtable discussion about her new book in New York City in early November. “My hope was that people could either relate to some of these recurring themes that I keep bringing up that come up in my own life, or even if not that there's something else that, as they're reading it, bubbles up within them. And my biggest hope was that once they finished the book, they would say, 'I want to evaluate; I want to go back and pen journals, start writing,' because there's so much healing that happens when you connect your mind and your heart to the story of your life,” she shares with friend and discussion moderator Sam Ponder, a sports commentator for ESPN. 

Joanna Gaines 'The Stories We Tell'
Joanna Gaines 'The Stories We Tell'.

Courtesy of Joanna Gaines

Printed under the cover sleeve of the hardback cover of Gaines’ book includes a polaroid-style photo of her 6-year-old self in 1984. She describes this stage in her life as being “free.” She continued reflecting back on that little girl and how over time she coped with being “othered” by seeking approval and valuing perfectionism. “I approached [writing] like an old house. I get excited about unearthing these things that were once bigger. I get excited about moving all this stuff away to find the bones of the house. And so, a lot of how I wrote my story was with that excitement of rediscovering who I was at these pivotal seasons in my life.” 

She hopes sharing her truth will inspire her children and other parents to live with gratitude and intention. Gaines shared with Parents that her older kids are reading the book. “I am like, ‘You don't have to read it,’ but they're reading the book. So they actually came to me on that topic of my family.” Now she’s always focused on her intention and operating from a place of wholeness. “I really wrote it for them to get there quicker than I did,” she says.  

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