MARIA LEONARD OLSEN
is a biracial woman whose parents were forbidden by law to marry in their home state of Maryland in the early 1960s. She is the mother of two children, a lawyer, journalist and author of two children's books. She leads writing/empowerment retreats for women, and is a co-host of the Inside Out radio show on WPFW-fm, 89.3, in Washington, D.C.
Maria graduated from Boston College and the University of Virginia School of Law, served in the Clinton Administration's Justice Department, fostered newborn babies awaiting adoption, and has been on the boards of Children's National Medical Center BOV, the Catholic Coalition for Special Education, GirlsUp and the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Washington.
She has written for The Washington Post, Washingtonian, Bethesda Magazine, Parenting, BabyTalk and Washington For Women, and is a regular contributor to Thrive Global, Up Journey and BreaknLinks. She recently returned to practicing law now that her children are launched. Mommy, Why's Your Skin So Brown? is her first children's book. Healing for Hallie is her second children's book. Not the Cleaver Family--The New Normal in Modern American Family, was released in November 2016. Her latest book, 50 After 50--Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, was published in June 2018.
Maria has spoken at numerous schools and corporate and nonprofit events, including the Mixed Remixed Festival in Los Angeles, The Japanese American National Museum's Family Day, the Washington Independent Review of Books, the National March to End Rape Culture, a motivational speaker at corporate and trade association meetings, and the U.S. Department of Justice's Asian American Month Celebration (as the then-highest ranking Asian American political appointee at the Justice Department). She is the chairperson of the 2019 HerStory Global Women’s Empowerment Conference in Washington, D.C. Maria is available for speaking engagements and book or diversity festivals. Her book talk has been featured on C-Span’s Book TV show, and her latest book was selected for the National Book Fair at the National Press Club.
"As a young child who grew up brown in a sea of white, I always felt other. Kids can be cruel, and I endured the jokes because of my appearance and my mother's ethnicity."
— Maria Leonard Olsen, Mixed Remixed speaker