Kristin Eggleston Hunter was born on September 12, 1931, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father was a school principal and U.S. Army colonel, and her mother worked as a pharmacist and teacher. Hunter earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. Although she was trained to teach elementary school, she decided instead to pursue a variety of employment opportunities. She has worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies and, at different times, a research assistant, lecturer assistant, and lecturer in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Hunter has also held the post of writer-in-residence at Emory University. Hunter's writing career began while she was still in junior high school. At the age of fourteen, she wrote a column for young people that appeared in the Philadelphia edition of the Pittsburgh Courier. Hunter's first novel, God Bless the Child (1964), illustrates her exceptional ability to capture the essence of black life in the inner city. An adult novel about a young black girl's struggle to escape the poverty and despair of Harlem, God Bless the Child introduces Hunter's particular interest in the plight of black females. Hunter's next novel, The Landlord (1966), is a light-hearted account of the problems a rich young man faces when he buys an inner-city apartment building. The novel's humorous tone does not detract from the author's serious reflections on the problem of poverty.
While Hunter's first two novels were written for adults, her later fiction is directed toward young adults. Her best known novel for young readers, The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou, received an award from the National Council on Interracial Books for Children in 1968, and also was honored with the Mass Media Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1969, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1971. Hunter published a sequel, Lou in the Limelight, in 1981, and continues to write fine books for children and young adults.