Names - Bella goes by many different forms of her name. Each one she used with a different person, and this gives her a some what different persona. Bella asserted her power over others as well as showed her multiple cultures by withholding her name.
Identity - Each character had multiple citizenships, names, and speaks numerous languages. Their identity and what defines them was constantly brought up throughout the book.
Carving by Dogon in Mali - Bella's biological father had a carving and it sparked Bella's interest in art.
Bella photographing her naked lovers - By taking pictures of her lovers naked Bella is asserting her power over them. She showed her dominance in the relationship and controlled how serious of a relationship it was -- and for her none of her relationships are serious.
Aar's death - Signified the end of Bella's care free, wandering ways. She had to put down roots to care for two teenagers. Her traveling and her three lovers are now all be pushed to the side.
Bella's dream about the dogs attacking - This symbolized as well as foreshadowed that her conflict with Valerie would come to a peak
The alarm going off in the middle of the night twice - This symbolized the two bad things that Valerie would do: shelter a wanted criminal and her anger over Bella helping her.
Dark Room - Symbolized Bella's dedication to the kids.
Drinking - Symbolized Valerie's unhappiness during her time with the children, she drank heavily before she left her husband and drank heavily when she was back near the children.
Cape Town - Symbolized the huge fight that Valerie and Padmini had in Cape Town over Valerie's cheating. They started a verbal fight and then progressed into a physical fight. Neither of them ever waned a fight to escalate to that level again so whenever the fights got too heated one of them says "Cape Town" and the fight ended.
Bacon - Symbolized the relaxed nature in which Bella and the kids followed their Somali religion and heritage.
Cameras - Represented the things that Bella wanted to teach the kids, as well as showed her dedication to her raising the kids.
Salif suggesting they visit Padmini and Valerie in India showed his intent on staying with Bella and not going with his mother.
The characters were introduced after they appear in the novel. Their back stories are told after they become a part of the plot.
The author used poems, common phrases, and sayings throughout the novel to help remind the reader of the multiple cultures the characters represent.
The author introduced a symbol into the story, but then spent the next paragraph explaining how and why it is a symbol.