Leila attended Bryn Mawr College for History and International Economics. She has been a US Navy aviation storekeeper, and a library clerk at Ames Library of South Asia. She studied at Punjab University, Lahore and explored Pakistan before doing grad studies in South Asian Studies. Her husband was in the US Foreign Service.
She has lived in Lahore Pakistan, Kabul Afghanistan, Lome Republic of Togo as well as Washington DC.